How do we know if our dogs understand us?
Dogs understand us! I firmly believe this, at least in some cases. I haven’t done scientific experiments or anything like that, but I know it to be true with my dogs. Have you ever had your dog respond to something you said to them? If so, maybe you know too.
If you are familiar with scientists and their theories, it takes a lot to prove that something is “true” in their eyes. Heck, it wasn’t too long ago that they decided that dogs do, in fact, have emotions. We dog lovers have know that for quite some time.
As much as sometimes it might be important to absolutely prove something, like curing a disease or how a medicine can help manage a condition. But I think there are things that we can know to be true without the studies to back up our beliefs. If I think about it, I could come up with many examples as to why I believe dogs understand us. This is one example.
Dogs understand us
Quinn is a 3 year old Aussie that always has to be busy. I think she is half border collie, so whirling dervish describes her pretty well most days. Playing ball is her absolute favorite thing in the world to do. She could play it All. Day. Long. I could throw the ball until she would collapse from exhaustion, although I don’t since I don’t want to hurt her. Read more about some our antics here.
Since I work from home, she believes I should be at her disposal for playing ball whenever the time is right, which is pretty much all the time. Well, it’s hard to get anything much done when a dog is constantly nagging you to go play. Every day, I’d stop and start the same thing all day long. Sometimes I’d tell her (often in a loud voice) to leave me alone for a bit. Or I’d tell her to wait until I was done with ____________.
For the longest time, I didn’t pay too much more attention to it than that. Sure we’d play ball, but little did I know, there was more going on than I realized.
Eventually, I noticed if I said “Wait until I get up” or “Wait until I finish _________”, she would quietly lie down with her eyes on me and wait. If I did as I told her, all was good and she’d stop nagging. We’d go outside to play and she’d be fine for awhile. But if I went ahead and ignored what I’d told her, she’d nag at me again.
It’s true, she did understand!
After seeing this several times, I finally realized that, yes, Quinn did understand that I was asking her to wait and when I was saying I’d be available. Not only did she understand, but she held me accountable for my words. If I didn’t do as I said, she’d call me on it. Sort of humbling, when you think about it, but also kind of cool. Part of living with a really smart dog, I suppose.
Have you ever realized your dog was responding to what you say? Even more importantly, have you ever tested it? You might be surprised at the results if you took the time to investigate.
You’ve got to watch what you say
I talk to my dogs all the time. Just what I do as a dog parent, I guess. Like many dog parents I’ve heard about, we spell the important words like B.A.L.L. or O.U.T.S.I.D.E., just to be safe. Those are the words that will instantly fire up the whole pack around our house.
But the more I see responses to what I say, the more I believe that they really do understand. Not everything, but many things. And there are those times when they’re not much different than kids; when they’re too distracted with something else or don’t want to hear me. Seems pretending not to understand can be beneficial, even though it’s sort of naughty.
I try to make sure I say what I mean and mean what I say. I also try not to talk about things in front of them that might bother them. See my post about my heart dog, Rocket, for more on that one. She was another super smart Aussie; one who changed my life and my beliefs about dogs.
We did try an animal communicator, see my post for more. She was helpful and lead me to realize that we underestimate our basic abilities to understand non-verbal language. They say we all have the ability to understand it, maybe even telepathic communication, if we open our minds to it.
Finding more ways dogs understand us
I think we’re just touching the surface of our relationships with our dogs. For example, a speech language pathologist put together a word board for her dog, Stella. Stella knows 29 words and uses them by pushing the buttons on her board. I’d love to try that with my dogs, I think. Or, if you want the science, here is a post about scientific evidence from a few years ago.
It would be an adjustment to have my dogs be able to ask me something or tell me how they feel. Just think of all the things that would be easier. Instead of wondering if they were hungry or just bored, if they hurt someplace or how they hurt themselves, I could ask and they could tell me. It would have it’s downside if your dog was throwing a temper tantrum or something, but it would ultimately make our relationships stronger.
For more about dogs and their communication, read my post Dog personality?
Have you had a dog that understood and responded to what you were saying? I would love to hear your experiences with your dogs in the comments below. Tell me your thoughts.