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Scientists Reveal The Way Our Dogs Understand Us

When humans seek to train their animals, many of us wonder if they can remotely understand the words that we speak. Do dogs really know what we’re talking about when we say things like “Fetch your tire” or are is it simply a learned behavior? Research shows dog understand words on some level.

Those of us who own dogs or have owned them know that with enough time, they will follow at least a few commands. But what we have yet to determine is if they really understand what the spoken words actually signify.

According to Emory University PhD candidate Ashley Prichard “Many dog owners think that their dogs know what some words mean, but there isn’t really much scientific evidence to support that.”

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So does that mean they don’t really understand when we say “sit?” Not exactly. “We know that dogs have the capacity to process at least some aspects of human language since they can learn to follow verbal command,” says senior author and neuroscientist Gregory Berns.

“Previous research, however, suggests dogs may rely on many other cues to follow a verbal command, such as gaze, gestures, and even emotional expressions.”

In Emory University’s canine study, twelve owners with various breeds of dogs were instructed to train their animal companions to fetch two different objects. Each object was also associated with a specific word.

Evidence gathered from the study showed that “they appear to have a neural representation for the meaning of the words they have been taught, beyond just a low-level Pavlovian response.”

Thanks to the study, we know that dogs are more inclined to learn a trick from visual examples than by verbal commands alone.

It’s interesting to find that despite the opinion of many people, there is no evidence to support the idea that dogs, and maybe even other animals can understand language on more than just a basic level.

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