Do you ever talk to your dog? Of course, you do! I mean, don’t we all? And if you’re anything like me then you probably have entire conversations with your pooch. But how much of it does he understand? Some? All? None? Keep reading to find out how many words a dog can actually understand.
The Name Game
When you bring home your new pooch, what’s the first thing you do?
Name him, of course.
Although we probably aren’t thinking of it in such concrete terms, communication begins here. So, in the beginning, everywhere your pooch goes, it’s Fido this and FeFe that. You just keep repeating your pup’s name over and over as many times as possible until all of a sudden you say his name and he turns his head to look at you. Isn’t that the best feeling? Fido knows his name!
Then you introduce more words. Many people refer to these as commands, but they’re just human words that your pooch will learn to understand. I always start with sit. Then I move on to paw, stay, down, wait, come, fetch, heel, up, and so on. With a little time and a lot of patience, you’ll be communicating before you know it.
So … How Many Words Can A Dog Learn To Understand?
This varies slightly depending on what expert you ask. According to psychologist Stanley Coren, “The average dog can learn 165 words and dogs in the top 20 percent of dog intelligence can learn 250 words.”
Coren lists the top 10 most intelligent dogs as:
- Border collie
- German shepherd
- Golden retriever
- Doberman pinscher
- Shetland sheepdog
- Labrador retriever
- Australian cattle dog
But according to psychologist J.Paul Scott, the average canine can understand approximately 200 spoken human words. Some trainers even claim they’ve taught dogs up to nearly 350 words. This means you can compare the average pooch to your typical two-year-old human kid’s language ability.
Meet A Real Super Dog: “Chaser”
Chaser is a border collie who knows over 1000 words. 1022 to be exact. John W. Pilley, a professor of psychology at the Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, is Chaser’s owner. In 2004, he set out to work with Chaser as he taught him the names of two toys a day over a period of three years. Chaser skyrocketed to fame in 2011 after the study was released in Behavioural Processes Journal. In 2013, Pilley wrote the New York Times Bestseller “Chaser.”
Although many of us load up on treats when teaching our dogs new tricks, according to Pilley:
“There’s only one thing every owner needs to know when teaching their dog: play is key. Play is much more powerful than food. They don’t ever get tired of play”
Watch Chaser In Action
Tips To Teach Your Super Dog New Words
- Be patient and make your learning session fun. Although some dogs will learn faster than others, always provide lots of repetition, reward, and praise.
- Be consistent. Make sure that everyone in the household uses the same word/words to refer to the object or action. If not it will get confusing and make learning more difficult.
- Along with your verbal cues use hand gestures. This is especially important if you’re teaching your dog safety commands. Dogs respond well to body language and hand gestures. For example: If I am teaching “wait” then I will always put my hand up in clear vision of his/her face so they know I mean stop.
- Don’t give up on senior Fido. Old dogs can definitely learn new words and new tricks and he’ll appreciate the extra time and attention he’d get with you.