Does your dog understand you?

In today’s society, people’s love and affection for pets play a huge role in their happiness and wellbeing. While all pets are particularly lovable, there are more dog-owning households in America than any other pet. Like many people who love dogs, I also share a deep love for “man’s best friend.” When you are exposed to owning dogs, it is common to speak to them like humans as if they are another member of the family. I have always wondered if they can actually understand the commands you give them and the tone in which they are given. I realize that dogs are intensely smart and attentive creatures that are useful in many fields yet that question always seems to stick out in my mind. Because dogs play such a huge role in the family life of many, it would be nice to know if they actually do understand when you tell them “Let’s go for a walk,” “Lay down,” “Play dead,” or “Stop barking.”  If a dog can actually understand your commands, it opens up a world of possibilities where dogs can be used for anything we can command them to do.imrs.php

In my research of this topic, I first came across this article which goes into vast detail about how a dog’s brain works. Researchers were able to gather household, family dogs and train them to sit in a machine that measures brain activity. Then by using a combination of neutral and praise words, they were able to determine how the dog’s brains work. The results were astonishing. A dog’s brain uses a left and right hemisphere system that is identical to how the human brain is wired. The left side is used to process language whereas the right side is used to process tone. Another test used was saying a variety of praise words in a neutral tone and using neutral words in a praising tone. The dogs were able to identify the praise words in the brain’s “rewards center” when spoken in the neutral tone, yet didn’t respond to them. The similarities between a dog’s brain and a human’s brain are endless. Just like humans, dogs can decipher whether or not a positive word is spoken in a positive tone and then combine the idea of word and tone to completely understand the commands being given.


This knowledge about how a dog’s brain works can also raise another question about a dog’s behavior. When their master is showing emotion, is their dog able to tell. Studies show that based on their facial expression and the sound of their voice, a dog can actually decipher how a human is feeling. An article that can be found here goes into greater detail about how dogs can sense how you are feeling, and whether or not humans can sense how a dog is feeling based on their facial expressions. In my own personal experience, I think that my dog can sense if I am happy or sad. Whenever I am in a happy or cheerful mood, my dog seems to be feeling the same way and is anxious for attention. However, when I am sad, my dog also seems to be able to sense it. A recent example is when I left for college last Friday. My mom was very upset about sending her oldest off and was in tears before we even left the house. My dog seemed to be able to sense this, walked over to my mom’s feet, and laid down. This instantly made my mom feel better because the dog is probably the favorite member in my household. He gets away with everything. This example in my life helps add to the credibility and my belief in the article above. Attached here is a picture of my dog.




2 thoughts on “Does your dog understand you?

  1. Abigail Reese

    I’m definitely not surprised that dogs are the most owned pets! I love dogs, as I’m sure most people do. I am definitely guilty of talking to my dog Lucy like she is a newborn baby. My voice gets high pitched and my family and I have so many nicknames for her. I’m also not surprised that dogs have similar brains to us. Sometimes I feel like Lucy knows me better than any human. I definitely know that seeing or petting your dog releases oxytocin in your brain (a “happy” hormone). Your pup is so cute! Here is an article explaining why our dogs steal our hearts with just a look.

  2. ajh6183

    I never thought about how a dogs brain worked until now. Your blog post gave me greater insight into how a dogs brain functions, how intelligent dogs really are, and how the similarities between dogs and humans can bring them closer in relation.
    This is especially interesting to me because before leaving for college, my dog was acting more attached to me than usual and started sleeping next to my bed every night (which never happens because she’s not allowed upstairs). I always felt like my dog contributed to the mood of the house but now I know that there is no doubt as to why she won’t. Thank you for sharing this post! I really enjoy reading into research that I can connect to my everyday life.

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