Like most dog owners, you probably talk to your dog in complete sentences, convinced that they can understand you, and more often than not, it appears that they do. Of course, they don’t speak fluent English, but by picking out the key words, such as ‘walk’, ‘park’ or ‘tea-time’, they can usually get the gist of what you mean.
The fact that we talk to very small children in much the same way is no coincidence. Research has shown that dogs have the same vocabulary as a two to two and a half-year-old child, somewhere between 200 and 250 words. Not only that, but studies have suggested that dogs can also count and understand basic maths. Which means that our pets are a lot brighter than we perhaps give them credit for. This is where dog obedience training can bring out the best in your canine.
Professor Stanley Coren, a leading canine researcher at the University of British Columbia, recently presented a set of canine studies to the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Society. He suggested that dog intelligence, and especially language skills, could rival that of apes. He found that the average dog had a vocabulary of at least 165 words, and the smartest dogs, like border collies, poodles and German Shepherds, could learn up to 250 words. What’s more, they could be taught to increase that vocabulary by learning new names for new items.
In addition to their vocabulary skills, dogs have also been found to be adept at reading non-verbal cues. Juliane Kaminski, director of the Dog Cognition Centre at the University of Portsmouth, found that both humans and dogs learn a common ‘language’ of facial expressions, looks and other physical cues through which they are able to communicate. This goes far beyond simple anthropomorphism, or the assigning of human characteristics to animals and inanimate objects, and becomes an effective way of communicating between species.
Dogs can count too
To test maths skills in small children, researchers note how long they look at the result of a test. If the result is unexpected, such as when two balls are placed behind a screen and the screen is then lifted to reveal three balls, the child will stare at the results for longer, trying to make sense of it. Dogs were found to react in the same way to surprising results, suggesting that they have basic maths skills as well as basic language.
“Your dog knows that one plus one equals two, not one or three,” explains Professor Coren. “They have been shown to be able to count up to four or five.” Research at Essex University has also shown that horses can also count, suggesting that the skill is widespread in the animal kingdom.
As the scientific world wakes up to what dog owners have always known, research into dog intelligence is spreading fast. Prestigious American universities, such as Duke and Yale, have canine research projects, and there are similar studies going on across Europe. Recently, and entire issue of the journal of the Association for Psychological Science was dedicated to studies involving dogs.
Of course, at A&T Trained dogs, we’ve always known how smart dogs are, and we count on that intelligence to help us with our dog obedience training, both for Perfect Pets and for our Family Protection Dogs. We can work with your dog too, helping them to add to their impressive vocabulary and learn new words as part of basic dog obedience training. To find out more about how to make the most of your dog’s surprising abilities, get in touch today.