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Do babies and two year olds understand dogs? And what do dogs understand?

Baby talk, toddler talk and dog speak – it turns out they can understand each other quite well:

Toddlers and Dogs

Babies, Toddlers and Dogs

Most dog owners know their pets have the capability to understand some things that are said to them (and yes, some dogs, like humans, are better at understanding than others).

Recently two different research teams published their findings on what the level of communication and understanding dogs have as compared to babies and babies understanding of dogs.

They put them in head to head trials to see how each did.

Their findings?

In the first test researchers at Brigham Young University wanted to see if babies understood canine language, and if so, at what level.

They found that babies up to 6 months of age instinctively knew what a dog was trying to say, and that babies successfully matched angry dog sounds with the picture of an angry dog.  They sensed that friendly dogs behave differently than angry ones do.  Smart.  And the knowledge the babies exhibited was there even though theses babies in the study hadn’t really had much contact with dogs prior to participating.

They somehow knew about dogs, instinctively.

This study was actually part of a bigger study to see what skills and instincts we are born with and which we learn as we grow.

The conclusion the researchers arrived at is that babies are born with some skills and understandings in place and instinctively know things (like which is a nice or not-nice dog and when they hear music to be happy with upbeat music and sad with gloomy music).

The second study compared a dog’s ability to understand spoken words, gestures and other thinking processes and compared the abilities with those of young children.

In this study researchers determined that dogs have the capacity to understand us better than our closest animal cousin, the chimpanzee, and that most dogs have the capacity to understand at the level of a 2 year old child.

Their findings reveal an average dogs can learn 165 words (similar to a 2-year-old child), including signals and gestures, and that the smartest dogs (top 20 percent in intelligence) can learn 250 words.

And the smartest dogs?

Border collies, poodles, and German shepherds, in that order, says Stanley Coren, a canine expert and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia. The dogs at the top of the pack are on par with a 2.5-year-old.

From these studies, I’m guessing there have been some conversations going on right under my nose that I was not aware of.  I’ll have to be alert for those knowing glances between the dog and the baby more 😉

How smart do you think your dog is??????





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4 Responses to “Do babies and two year olds understand dogs? And what do dogs understand?”

  1. PSS says:

    I have always had dogs, and they minded far better than my kids did-however, they wanted to please me. When your dog[s] is raised inside the home, used to everyone talking to him/her, making gestures-communicating-they are going to be surprisingly intelligent-and after awhile, we take it for granted-after all, they are a part of the family.

    This always surprised a lot of our guests-but their dogs were on a chain, fenced in-just really neglected and taken for granted as a watch dog.

    My dogs had strategy-when someone tried to get in one night-and I had 4 dogs at that time-one stayed with me, one was at the door and the other two spaced between. The person who had plans of coming in changed their minds, because my dogs were letting them know-you got trouble waiting for you, pal..

  2. admin says:

    Your dogs were absolutely part of your family weren’t they?

    I completely understand you when you say they want to please you. I’ve observed that dogs usually want a ‘job’ in the family and love it when they better understand what you want of them. Most dogs will really try to do the task they are asked to do and once they’ve taken on a household ‘job’ they do their job with pride.

    Guarding their family is right up there with their most important job.

    That and unconditional love.

    Thanks for your comment.


  3. charlene boyd says:

    Hey Linda,

    I don’t think this is really news to us that are close to your pups. I would be willing to say it is higher than the age stats given because dogs are masters at watching expressions and body language, all a part of communication/!

  4. Linda says:

    No, I agree it is not news to pet owners.

    It is amusing to me to see all of the researchers who spend time and funds figuring it out though and then publishing the results.

    In the circle of life, our pets are such a big part of the circle and have understandings and comprehension of things that transcend words (although it is interesting to note the number of words the researchers think dogs understand….).

    🙂 Linda

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