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Kevin Colwill
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29-09-2011, 11:15 AM

Do Dogs Understand Words or Just Tone of Voice?

I used to believe dogs only responded to tone of voice not to the words themselves.

Over time I have adjusted my opinion and now think dogs do understand words although it's clear that the way the words are delivered matters a great deal. I believe academic studies have borne this out.

Do you think dogs understand words and, if so, how many words would you say your dog understands?
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Jackie
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29-09-2011, 11:44 AM
Originally Posted by Kevin Colwill View Post
I used to believe dogs only responded to tone of voice not to the words themselves.

Over time I have adjusted my opinion and now think dogs do understand words and although it's clear that the words are delivered matters a great deal. I believe academic studies have borne this out.

Do you think dogs understand words and, if so, how many words would you say your dog understands?
my common sense tells me they don't understand human language, but associate sounds and gestures to meanings....

But I swear Millie understands certion words because she sure does react to them when they are said.
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Helena54
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29-09-2011, 11:48 AM
I know for sure my dog understands certain words, especially cheese, bone, fish stick and daddy! She does certain actions for each of these when I say them, and yet I say each one of them in the very same tone and voice level (she's a very smart dog though! )

Admittedly, with her commands, yes, I do say them in different voice tones so maybe she understands those more because of HOW I'm saying them, but certainly not the above words, she knows each one of them and a lot, lot more!
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youngstevie
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29-09-2011, 11:48 AM
I believe its the sound of the word...for instance you could say ''do you want to go ''talkies'' and they will still take that as walkies.
I've tried this out on mind, they know alot of whats being said and I have changed to word to one of ''sounds the same'' and they respond perfectly.

Bed...Dead
Walkies..talkies
lead...breed
stay...hay
close....toast


it was something years ago I was interested in and doing it I realised that the sound is what they respond too.
Voice and tone play a big part too, if you tried ''get your lead now'' in the tone of happy, we are off out ....they are happy and will get the lead.....if you try '' GET YOUR LEAD NOW the response will be totally different.

Mine know an awful lot of words/sounds
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Malka
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29-09-2011, 11:56 AM
If it is sound, tone of voice, gestures etc, how come Pereg understands both my English and my neighbour's Hebrew, when both have totally different words, sounds, and intonation? We both use different gestures as well.

And how come even when talking on the telephone I cannot mention the words "biscuits" or "bikkies" or even just "b" without her immediately going to the cupboard where they are kept? I now have to say "that word that begins with the letter in between "a" and "c"!
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Hali
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29-09-2011, 12:00 PM
I think some dogs do understand words rather than just tone..but I don't think it applies to all dogs.

I have two collies. one clearly understands words..she can pick them out when me and OH are talking to each other for example if we happen to say the word 'bedtime' in our conversation, Hoki will quite often take herself upstairs.

However the other collie, Stumpy, clearly has problems with word recognition. She'll often sit infront of you twisting her head as if she's trying to understand what you're saying to her. She really does best with body language and in most cases when I give her a verbal command, I give her a hand sign too (and no, she is not deaf).

Perhaps like people, some dogs are better at other languages than others

Having said all that, I still think that tone and body language would over-ride a word. For example Hoki understands the word sit. But if I was to fling my arms open wide and call in an excited voice 'Hoki sit' I'm pretty sure that she would come to me rather than sit.
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Trouble
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29-09-2011, 12:10 PM
I tried this out years ago with my cocker spaniel because he used to spin in circles whenever the word walkies or walk was mentioned, it made no difference what tone we used. We then used to say we'll go for a w a l k spelling it out rather than saying the word but he sussed that too. I started doing it with other words too and no matter what tone was used he cottoned on straight away. I don't think all dogs recognise words though, some are obviously better at it than others. Of my current lot Syd my male Dobermann seems to understand quite a few words rather than tone where as the others probably go by tone.
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ClaireandDaisy
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29-09-2011, 12:16 PM
They link cues to things. Like if you always waved a biscuit when you said Hippo, the dog would understand hippo = biscuit.
How many cues they know depends on the dog and the owner. Some people waffle on and some just shout at their dogs. I doubt dogs in these circumstances learn much.
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Trouble
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29-09-2011, 12:21 PM
Some things have no cue such as " Where's ya ball" swiftly followed by said dog going off in search of his ball, and triumphantly returning with it and plonking it in your lap.
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ClaireandDaisy
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29-09-2011, 12:25 PM
Daisy (and now Prince) know Ball. Even if it`s in a sentence like.. where`s the flippin ball you dozy dog?

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