Dogs Know

Have you ever heard the saying, “Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell”? The poet Emily Dickinson wrote this in her poem Hope Is the Thing with Feathers and even though I have never read the poem I think that this statement is true. Many times in my life my dog has been there during the best and worst of times and every time I would wonder, “how do they know that I how I am feeling right now?” Before I left for college, every day I hear someone in my family say “where’s Emily?” and my dog will find me. It never mattered what room I was in, she always found me. Since I have been in college my parents have told me that when they ask her where I am, she looks at them and does not move because she knows I am not there. Through this example, I have confidence in that dogs know what we are saying to them and respond to what they hear.


It seems unlikely that dogs would know what we are saying but with a new study, scientists are in the beginning steps of determining more about dogs and how they interpret what we say. We can train dogs to listen for certain commands or their name but we cannot teach them our language and speak it back to us. However, in a way they do respond back to us through their body language and facial expressions. This shows that interactions with other beings does not always have to speech, it can be little things as well.

Stephen Huneck Gallery

Stephen Huneck Gallery

Here is an article explaining how scientists are experimenting with dogs to see how they can understand what we say and how we say it. Even though they are only in the first stages of the experiment, they are learning so much about how our communication with animals affects not only us but also them as well. In the article, it talks about how they use their left hemisphere to process meaningful words and they use their right hemisphere to figure out whether or not they are receiving praise. But the researchers previously found that the right hemisphere also processes non-emotional noises from both humans and dogs, making it so that their way of understanding us may not necessarily be in our words but in our tone of voice.

Here is an example of a video of a man and his dogs, and how they interact with each other. In the video, when the man comes home, his voice is very high pitch and happy making his dogs happy. As the video goes on his tone of voice and language changes to become lower and  more serious. When this happens the dogs walk away knowing that their owner is not happy with them. By changing the tone of his voice the dogs change their attitude and body language as well. They go from wagging their tails and almost grinning to no wagging and no grin.

Our language says a lot about us and how we use that language is up to us. But we have to keep in mind that it can affect whoever or whatever is around us. Even if it is not through speech, our actions towards animals and other beings create a language and understanding of it’s own.


Here is where the picture of the black lab came from.

Here is where the brain came from.

Here is where the video is from.

Here is where the quote is from.



2 thoughts on “Dogs Know

  1. Alexander Mark Schaefer

    This is the second post I’ve read about dogs and how they have impacts on our lives. I find I can relate myself to the man talking to his dogs in the video you posted. I would come home from my day out and my dog would tell if I was in the mood to throw her frisbee or not. Every time she knew when i came back from wrestling practice I was ready for bed. Dogs really are an intelligent gift to us and I believe your article helped me understand dogs a little bit more.

  2. Ahmed Mohamed

    I think your discussion of language is really interesting. Growing up in a diverse neighborhood, Ive met dogs that knew different languages and even multiple languages. It was really interesting to me how I could say sit in english and my friends dog wouldnt even bat an eye but if I said it in spanish he would sit. I wonder what the research says about dogs who understand different language and that could be something that you could do a blog on if you are interested in.

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