Dogs can understand human speech, scientists discover


**Dogs understand what some human words mean, according to a study published in the prestigious journal Science.

In a world-first experiment, academics in Hungary trained 13 dogs to voluntarily lie in an MRI scanner to monitor what happened in their brain when the researchers spoke to them.

They discovered that dogs’ brains process language in a similar way to humans, with the right side dealing with emotion and the left processing meaning. **

The article continues at the link.



As a person who has shown and bred dogs for almost fifty years, no surprise here.


No surprise here either. I thought everyone knew that


Not only dogs, but cats, too. Mine certainly know certain words and what I mean by my tone of voice, etc. Having said that, cats are independent creatures who only obey if it suits them, which can make it hard to discern if they understand what is said to them. I believe they do, but they simply ignore anything they don’t want to hear/do. :stuck_out_tongue:


I’ve always dreamed of having a career as a professional cat trainer. :love: I’m convinced it would be the ideal job for me. Alas.


One of our cats is deaf, so that point is moot as far as she is concerned. The other one knows two words: “Zazu” (her name) and “treat” :smiley:

As for dogs, I, like others here, thought that it was common knowledge that they could understand a certain amount of human speech.


And all those professional philosophers who say over and over that dogs can have no life everlasting because they haven’t what we consider a mind… It would be way cool if their dogs visited them in Purgatory!:):):slight_smile:



So long as you are paid by the hour and not specific results :slight_smile:


Imaginably I had all stupid dogs, but I seriously question whether they can truly understand words other than perhaps their names. I think it’s actually all in the way a person says the words.

The smartest dog I ever had was an excellent cattle dog. I had a number of commands for her, directing her to do some fairly complex things. But it was really the intonation, the word rhythm and accompanying gestures, also whistles. If, say, I varied the tone, the rhythm of the words or the gestures, she “didn’t get it” at all or would do the wrong thing. If I made one verbal commend sound like another, with the intonation like the second instead of the first, she would follow the second, not the first.

I even question whether they really know their names in the way we do. There are a limited number of ways we address a dog, and they learn all of them mean they must pay attention. So then they watch for other clues. I do think tone, number of syllables, eye contact, facial expressions and movements are what they learn, not words.

And it’s natural that they would. That’s the way it is with wolves. They don’t say words to each other, but they have a lot of ways to communicate a lot of things, including tone, posture, movements, eye contact, facial expressions.

Sorry, but I don’t buy the idea that they really understand words in the way we do.


Oh,I love cats! My last kitty loved to play hide and seek.It was so cute,she would chatter too,whenever she would "find me":wink:


Since dogs are social animals, which implies intelligence and communication, this does not surprise me.


I hope they didn’t spend a lot of money on that study. I could have told them that, for free. :smiley:


No surprise to me either. St. Francis spoke to the animals & they listened.


I thought that was Dr.Doolittle!:pJK


Several good points. I expect the evolution/adaptation of the dog’s capability for understanding language closely follows their natural modes of communication. It seems to me that dogs can control pitch and can produce a few vowel sounds but few if any consonants. Therefore I shouldn’t be surprised if they have difficulty recognizing consonants.

Can they learn it? I wonder, because humans may at first have difficulty distinguishing or processing unfamiliar sounds in foreign languages, but can often learn it with experience. However, I’m sure humans have more brain function devoted to this sort of thing.


I’m not so sure about that. My dog knows the difference between the word “cookie” and the word “outside”. Also her name and no. I don’t think i could substitute cookie for the word no and she understand. She definitely knows what a cookie is!!!:slight_smile:


Your tax money in action! :):slight_smile:



The intonation of “cookie” is different from that of “outside”, and likely your facial expression is different for each.

Sometime try this. Maybe your dog understands “good dog” and “bad dog”. But you say them differently. Say “bad dog” with the exact same intonation and expression as you use when you say “good dog” and the dog will think you’re praising him/her. The reverse is true too. I must have experimented with that kind of thing a thousand times when I was a kid.

Like wolves, they understand the tone, the rhythm, the accompanying facial expressions, postures, and gestures. But the words themselves? No.


There’s a Border Collie named Chaser who has been shown to understand the names for 1,022 toys.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit