How dogs perceive human language as an animal unable to speak is amazing. Just one second after uttering words such as walking or therapy, dogs can anticipate and react to the conversation, and even understand the tone of the human voice.
Although the vocabulary of dogs is not as extensive as that of humans, new research shows that dogs can respond to an average of 89 words or phrases, about half of which are instructions such as “sit” or “stay”; But they also understand some general words like “waiting” and words like “cure”.
The most trained dogs can respond to more than 200 specific words, which is equivalent to the vocabulary of a two-year-old. It is clear that the dog can not say these words like a child; But it can react to certain words in a continuous and specific way, which indicates that the animal understands human language.
The findings are based on an organized vocabulary list that parents use to evaluate their children’s vocabulary. However, in this study, a list was given to 165 dog owners, which includes dogs of different breeds, ages and specialties. Although work status and breed (for example, police dogs) affect the vocabulary of dogs, the age and quality of life of the dog owner does not affect this list. The authors say:
According to the owners, dogs are not only in the number of words they know; They also differ in the type of words.
Past research has shown that if dogs are trained, they can respond to a large number of human words. For example, according to a 2004 study by researchers, a dog named Breed Cali Ricoh Recognizes more than 200 items, including toys and balls, by hearing them. In 2011, another breed of breeder Kali was able to respond to a toy dictionary containing more than 1,000 words after three years of training.
Some intelligent dogs can even learn new words after hearing them only a few times; But what about ordinary domestic dogs? The authors of the article received reports of a reaction to 172 words and phrases. Of course, in these studies, dog owners may overestimate their pets’ perceptions. Previous research on vocabulary testing in infants has shown that parents perform better than trained observers in understanding their children, and the same can be said for dogs.
In addition, by providing a consistent list of words to dog owners, this method ensures that the test dog owner does not forget some words. Dog owners in the current study were asked to rate their dogs’ response to specific words and phrases from 0 to 5. A score of 0 means that the dog has never or continuously responded to that word or phrase; While a score of 5 means that dogs often respond to words; Even when different people utter those words in different situations and in different tones.
In general, there are ten phrases or words that more than 90% of dogs recognize. These common words and phrases are: dog name, sit down, come, good girl or boy, down, stay, wait, no, ok and leave. In contrast, only a small number of dogs can respond to words and phrases such as “clean your feet”, “whisper”, “loud” and the names of their nurse or caregiver.
Dog owners can add more words and phrases when using an organized vocabulary. Also, owners who refer to most commands and words or verbs have professionally trained dogs or dogs that learn very quickly.
Professional dogs such as army dogs or police dogs or search and rescue dogs have 1.5 times as many uneducated dogs. The authors of this study did not have enough access to dogs of different breeds to be able to accurately calculate the learning power of each; But more general breeds such as herding dogs, puppies, hounds and terriers did not show much change in their vocabulary ability.
Owners of herding dogs and puppies believe that their dogs respond more to words than terriers, hounds, and other purebreds. These findings are interesting; However, due to the exploratory nature of this study, the authors believe that it is too early to draw definitive conclusions about the ability of a particular type of dog to react to human language; As a result, current research has its limitations.
It is always possible that some postures and gestures of the human body and some other background information affect the perception of dogs; However, because many of these dogs receive basic training, a fully trained dog may have less than 89 words. Nevertheless, this research is a good first step and emphasizes a potential way to measure a dog’s response to human language. The larger the sample size, this tool allows you to measure the words corresponding to the dogs’ reaction. The authors conclude by saying:
With more research, our tool becomes an economical, effective and efficient research tool and may be able to help predict the ability of dogs for different specialties.
The study was published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science.