Bridging the Divided

Do Dogs Understand Us? You Bet They Do…..

“There ain’t a man livin’ who hasn’t talked to his dog.” Hank Williams

Back in the day, not many would have corrected Hank, but in the 21st century, I think it important to add, “or woman”, to his quote. Fur parents talk to their fur babies, men, and women. These days I talk to my fur babies more than to humans, preferring their company over humans most days, anyway. 

Anyone who has animals knows they understand the humans in their lives. I don’t know if they listen for keywords, or are able to interpret full sentences. Dog researchers agree dogs understand words and voice inflection, how much is a matter of opinion. Some researchers believe dogs have a vocabulary of 160+ words. They read facial expressions and body language, too.

Our dogs understand words, voice inflections, and body language, of this, I am convinced. I can say from another room, “go for walkies?” and little ears perk and the dancing begins. Dogs dance when they are happy. Ever notice that? If I walk into a room and find a roll of toilet paper chewed and strewn everywhere all I need to do is cross my arms and raise an eyebrow and watch little ears droop, and big brown eyes look anywhere but at my face, acting appropriately repentant for their actions. Whether they are repentant or not is another subject altogether. Our dogs are comical critters and get away with more than I ever let my kids get away with. 

Kaiah, our youngest, is obsessed with balls and playing fetch. Inside or out, matters not to her. In the evenings while we are watching television Kaiah will drop a ball in front of my husband’s feet, look up at him, then down at the ball, then up at him again. Taking the hint, he picks up the ball to toss it down the hallway. Kaiah jumps up and down and lets go of shrill yips and barks. My husband says, “inside voice” and the little stinker yips ever so quietly. When she brings the ball back she will drop it just out of his reach. My husband bends over and taps the floor, saying, “put it closer”. Kaiah picks up the ball and drops it where he tapped. Do dogs understand words? You bet they do…..

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