Facts about the animal kingdom

How Many Words Do Dogs Know?

Ameera Mills
By Ameera Mills. Updated: March 26, 2019
How Many Words Do Dogs Know?

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Dogs, in addition to being man's best friend, are among the most intelligent beings in all of the animal kingdom. When you observe your dog, do you every wonder if dogs can understand human speech?

Having a conversation with a dog is in fact possible. When you give your dog orders or vocalize words of affection, our dogs do understand us to an extend. If you want to know more about whether or not your dog can communicate and understand you, take a look at this AnimalWised article where we will be discussing how many words dogs know.

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  1. Can dogs understand human speech?
  2. Dog training vocabulary
  3. How many words can dogs understand?
  4. How many words do dogs know?
  5. How many words does the smartest dog know?

Can dogs understand human speech?

They say that each dog looks like its owner, either because of its habits, its appearance or other characteristics that resemble them. At times, you may feel that you are even speaking to them as you would a human friend. The truth is that dogs are able to understand many words. Although they cannot answer you in the same way, this does not mean they do not understand what you are saying.

Dogs can easily understand basic commands, such as: "Sit", "paw" or "stay". In addition, if trained properly, they are able to recognize their own name.

How Many Words Do Dogs Know? - Can dogs understand human speech?

Dog training vocabulary

So, how do dogs understand human vocabulary? Studies show that dogs process words in a similar way that humans do. When you say a word to them, their brains gather this information and it is sent through various brain processes. Dogs use their left side of the brain to understand words they hear, while they use their right side to comprehend intonation. This process allows them the opportunity to understand the "intention" of the word that a person vocalizes to them[1].

Dogs do not understand human-created language, but they do understand words through association. Dogs understand signals, especially if they have been trained and conditioned to do so. Through training, with the use of techniques such as positive reinforcement, a dog can be trained to associate words to actions and reactions. For more, you may find our following article interesting: how to teach a dog its name.

How many words can dogs understand?

The most recognized study on this topic was researched by psychologist Stanley Coren, at the University of British Columbia. His analysis focused on a study regarding the ability and intelligence that dogs have in learning new words.

In his research, Coren concluded that dogs are able to understand approximately 160 words, as long as they are stimulated properly. In addition, dogs understand human lexicon as a child between 2 and 3 years of age would. This, however, only occurs as long as constant practice is applied.

As if that were not enough, this research also showed that dogs find it much easier to understand words related to concrete objects, such as "bone" or "ball". But, they find abstract words such as ‘‘sweetie’’ more difficult to comprehend.

Coren also discovered that dogs find it easier to learn words that start with strong consonants, such as: p, t, c, k, q, while soft ones, like: f, s, r, l, are more challenging.

In the same way, they learn words faster if they are shorter and more direct. For example, for dogs ‘‘eat’’ is much easier for them to remember than ‘‘let’s eat’’. This is because dogs retain words through a process called rapid mapping; which occurs when we repeat certain words frequently and relate them to an action or object.

In this sense, during training it is very important that the words we teach our dogs sound different from each other. Orders are, in addition, more effective if accompanied by correct clear body language, making it easier for your dog to understand the message you want to convey.

How Many Words Do Dogs Know? - How many words can dogs understand?

How many words do dogs know?

Research conducted by Coren revealed that there are some breeds of dogs that project a greater ability of learning words. Breeds such as: Poodles, German Shepherds, Border Collies, Labradors and Dobermans proved to develop broader lexicons more easily than other breeds could. However, this will always depend on a dog’s training. Whatever breed your dog may be, stimulating a dog from an early age is the best way to achieve more successful and satisfactory results.

How many words does the smartest dog know?

In conclusion, we cannot forget to mention Chaser the dog of Jon W. Piller, professor of psychology at Wofford College (Spartanburg, South Carolina, E.E.U.U). Chaser is able to recognize more than 1,000 words without making any mistakes. Take a look at the video below for more!

If you want to read similar articles to How Many Words Do Dogs Know?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

  1. Attila Andics, Márta Gácsi, Tamás Faragó, Anna Kis, Ádám Miklósi; Voice-Sensitive Regions in the Dog and Human Brain Are Revealed by Comparative fMRI, Current Biology, Volume 27, Issue 8, 24 April 2017, Pages 1248-1249.
  • The Intelligence of Dogs - Stanley Coren
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How Many Words Do Dogs Know?