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

Friday, September 11th, 2009

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??????