Do Dogs Understand Human Language?

Anyone that is a ‘dog-person’ will swear by the fact that their dog understands what they are saying to them.

Dogs react to not just the tone of someone’s voice, but also in conjunction with the words that are being said.

Scientists that have studied the dog/human communication have come up with interesting results that support the fact that dogs can understand certain words.

It seems that the average dog has an intelligence level that is close to a human toddler. They can understand around 165 different words, especially if you take the time and effort to train them. Dogs can comprehend words such as ‘sit’ or ‘stay’ as actions that they need to take. They can also understand what a ‘leash’ is, as it is something that is taken along on their walk but don’t have the secondary level of comprehension to know the purpose of the leash is to keep them from running off.

Something that seems to override words is the tone and cadence of your voice when you are saying it. You can refer to a dog as a ‘bad dog’, but if you say it in a pleasant manner, they will not consider it in the negative.

In the dog world, they have a variety of signals and calls as well as body language that they use to communicate with each other. This can be adapted so that dogs will understand hand signals as a request for action or help. Sheep herders use hand signals in training their dogs and hand signals are helpful with a caregiving dog that assists the deaf.


Dogs respond in different manners, depending upon what is going on around them. At the puppy park, they may have fun in rough and tumble but if the same actions occur around food, they look to those as aggressive moves.

There are some dog breeds that seem to simply be ‘smarter’ than others and those are the dogs that you often see working with police and security. Mixed breed dogs can be just as smart as some of the pure breeds and this is being proven as dogs are adopted from shelters and are becoming some of the top service dogs.

Do you have a dog in your home? Would you like to find out if your dog really does understand human language? There are easy experiments that can help you tell how well your dog understands.