BaxterBoo Blog
January 8, 2021

Helping Your Dogs Understand What You Say

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Because your dogs are some of your best friends, you may know exactly what they are always thinking. You may also recognize the signs of happiness, anger, sadness and boredom. Still, to be certain your animals respond to your commands, you must work on improving their language comprehension. Fortunately, there are some reliable ways to accomplish this objective.

Does Your Dog Communicate With You?

When you speak, your dogs may turn their heads, wag their tales or even run and hide. Are your pooches trying to communicate with you, though? A recent study suggests the answer is yes, at least to some degree.

Modern dogs evolved from wolves over a few thousand years. During that time, domesticated canines developed specialized facial muscles that wolves lack. These muscles allow your pooches to raise and lower their eyebrows, effectively mimicking human facial expressions.

Essentially, when your dogs need something, they try to be as cute as possible. This evolutionary advancement triggers your nurturing instincts. That is, when trying to get a treat, request a walk or even obtain medical care, it is advantageous for your pups to be as cute as possible.

How Many Words Do Dogs Know?

Making charming expressions is vastly different than communicating with spoken language. While your dogs obviously cannot speak using human language, they do have the ability to recognize words. For example, your animals probably understand “sit,” “stay” and “heel.” They may also be able to beg or roll over and play dead when you ask them to perform tricks.

Researchers from the American Psychological Association have determined that average dogs are capable of learning up to 150 words. As far as language learning goes, this places most dogs on the same plane as human toddlers.

A dog’s age, breed and mental fitness may determine how many words are possible to learn. Still, if your dogs are especially intelligent, they may have even better language skills than other canines. The APA notes that high-achieving dogs can learn as many as 250 words.

How Can You Improve Your Dog’s Comprehension?

Despite the old expression, it is possible to teach an old dog new words. Nevertheless, younger animals usually assimilate language better than older ones. Consequently, the best thing you can do to teach your dogs a large vocabulary is to start early.

Regardless of the age of your dogs, diligent dog training may help your animals acquire language skills. To boost comprehension, try implementing six techniques.

1. Limit What You Say

Even though you probably prefer to speak in complete sentences, your dogs have little use for prepositions, participles or predicates. Instead, they need clear commands to execute desired behaviors. Remember, your dogs are probably tuning out much of what you say, as they simply cannot understand many of your words.

Rather than trying to communicate with your pooches using complex sentence structures, stick to just a word or two. To express satisfaction, offer your dogs high-value treats . If your dogs do something wrong during your training sessions, withholding treats may help to communicate your displeasure.

2. Give Cues One Time Only

If your pooches are not listening to your words, resist the urge to restate commands repeatedly. For your dogs to understand your commands, they must be able to differentiate them from other words. Giving the command once and rewarding with a treat shows your dog which word is the important or relevant one.

3. Use Your Body Language

When you talk to other humans, your nonverbal cues are as important as your words. The same is true for your dogs. Hand signals, body language or even a dog whistle may give your animals another way to understand what you want.

You do not want your nonverbal signals to confuse your animals, though. Therefore, you must always make the same hand signals when stating your commands. That is, consistency is key when training your dogs to learn new words.

4. Demonstrate the Correct Behavior

Dogs are pack animals that have evolved to take cues from other dogs. If your words and hand signals are not getting your point across, consider demonstrating the behaviors you want your dogs to perform. When your pups parrot your actions, reward them with a nutritious treat or their favorite dog toy.

In addition to demonstrating correct behaviors, you must be careful not to reward inappropriate actions. Intentionally or inadvertently affirming your dogs when they do wrong may make teaching correct behaviors more difficult.

5. Go Slowly

If you have ever reached for a dictionary to look up a word you are confident you already know, you understand that mastering language takes time. Rather than letting your frustrations get the better of you, be persistent and brief with your training.

Dogs who appear confused or frustrated may no longer be learning effectively. Therefore, spread your training out over weeks or even months. Once your dogs learn your commands, reinforce good behaviors regularly to keep skills sharp.

6. Choose a Release Command

When the clock strikes five, you know it is time to pack up and leave your job. Your dogs do not know when work is over, however. Accordingly, you should have a release command that signals the end of training time.

You should not have a complicated release command. Likewise, your release command should not sound like other popular commands, such as “sit” or “stay.” For most dogs, “release,” “done” or even “ok” make good release commands.

Teaching your dogs new words requires some patience. Nevertheless, your effort is likely to pay off, as dogs that know many commands tend to behave better.


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This entry was posted by Rachel.

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