A Pet's Life

New Research States That Dogs Can Understand Up to 89 Unique Words and Phrases



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We’ve all taught our dogs basic commands like “sit,” “down,” and “stay.” And these are words that we’ve intentionally imprinted in their minds. 

But isn’t it amazing how dogs can also understand words or phrases that we speak to them on a regular basis? Words like “good boy/girl” or “let’s walk” are words that, somehow, our dogs respond to as well. In fact, they can even read our body language.

Dogs are smarter than most of us think. And by smarter, we mean that they can understand up to 89 words smarter, according to a new study. 




A total of 165 dog owners of various breeds and ages were asked to identify which words, from a list, did their dogs respond to. They were given a survey online which included a list of 172 words for them to rate how responsive their dogs were to those words. The owners were also given the freedom to add more words on their own. 

The study found that on average, the dogs responded to 89 words, half of these were commands. Professional dogs, such as military and police dogs, had a vocabulary 1.5 times larger than dogs without career training.




Unfortunately, the study did not have enough participants to determine which specific breeds performed better or worse. But what they generally found was that herding dogs and toy-companion dogs seemed to have responded to more words than sporting-gun dogs.

Another limitation is that dog owners interpret their dogs’ behaviors differently. So their answers to the survey may not be completely accurate. 

But despite all these limitations, the findings of this study are truly groundbreaking. We hope that research in the future further unravels the specific words that dogs will most likely respond to.

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