How much does your dog understand?

French bulldog puppy

Little Rascals have spent years working with our dog and a question that we can asked a lot by new owners is do dog understand us?

Whilst your dog might understand your basic cues including reading your mood and knowing when you just need a hug.  Over time there has been a number of research dog into finding out just how clever dogs are and here is a selection of some of the cleverest dogs on the planet and their greatest achievements:

Rico a Border Collie from Germany

In 2004, scientists proved that Rico the Border Collie could understand more than 200 verbal cues. They also found that Rico could identify familiar objects at an average of 37 times out of 40, and could respond correctly to unfamiliar words used to identify objects he had never seen before.

Sofia a crossbreed from Brazil

In 2012 Sofia proved that she can ask for what she wants by pressing keys on an electronic panel that correspond to toy, food, walk and so on. Despite the fact she was of no particular breed of dog, she showed incredible understanding.

How can I improve my dog’s understanding?

Dogs love to observe us, and they really are a man’s best friend.  It’s their desire to cooperate with humans which makes them such great learners of visual and verbal cues. 

When making the decision to extend your family with a dog it is important to note that they require as much of your time as possible to develop.  The more time you give to your four-legged family member the more they will understand what you are asking them to do.

But how should you go about improving your own dog’s language skills?

  1. Classical conditioning – Say the word immediately before the dog performs the action so that the word becomes a predictor for the action.
  2. Use visual signals – Dogs pick up visual signals faster than verbal ones, so try to associate a hand movement with a certain behaviour and cue word, e.g. ‘Sit’.
  3. Repetition – Repeat the hand movement and cue word until your pooch has it perfected!
  4. Reward – All dogs love food, so what better way to reward your dog’s newly-found language skills than with a tasty treat or two. Just remember not to feed your dog more than the recommended amount and healthy treats are always a good alternative

But to develop an even more impressive vocabulary, the most important thing to do is regularly talk to your dog.  Try to expand your commands so rather than saying “out” or “Toilet” when instructing him to go outside try saying “Do you want to go outside?” as you open the back door, and “Time to go for a walk” as you pick up the lead rather just “walkies”.  This will enable your dog to learn more words and what those words mean.

One of our staff are on hand should you wish to discuss in more depth training of your puppy.  Call us on 01522 789191 or

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