If you read the recent story about a border collie named Chaser who can understand over 1,000 English words, you may have looked over at your pet and raised an eyebrow. After saying, “wow,” this dazzling dog deal became a canine conundrum: Dogs obviously understand the same words as humans, but is it accurate to say that animals use language?
Man’s best friend is hardly the only animal capable of amazing humans with communication skills. While Chaser apparently can understand English words, extensive studies using gestural communication (sign language) explore the cognitive potential in the great apes. In addition, a recent book chronicles the late Alex, an African Grey Parrot that could apparently comprehend the difference between syntax and the meaning of words in English, distinguishing his cognitive skills from instinctive communication.
Instinctive animal communication versus learned cognition is at the heart of a debate raging in zoosemiotics, the study of animal communication. In his book The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker points out that there are 7 properties in human language that separate it from animal communication:
- Arbitrariness: The relationship between the word and object is symbolic.
- Cultural transmission: Language is learned from speakers.
- Discreteness: Language exists in units that can be used in patterns to create meaning.
- Displacement: Language can convey meaning about things not immediately present.
- Duality: Language has a surface meaning and a semantic meaning.
- Metalinguistics: We can talk about language.
- Productivity: A finite number of units are combined to create an infinite number of meanings.
Some of these properties appear in animal communication, but it takes all seven to create human language. In contrast, animal communication is instinctive, not learned. Animal communication is highly functional and associated with survival, sustenance, reproduction or activities tangential to these goals. There are plenty of famous examples of this, from prairie dogs clicking to alarm others of predators to male songbirds singing for a mate.
Animals communicate through biological function, such as scent, and color. Certain aquatic species, the most sensitive being sharks, send electric pulses through electrocommunication.
So, when a dog starts wagging its tail and jumping when it hears you say “park,” the canine understands the events that typically occur in association with the sounds. While animals are capable of a dazzling variety of these word-event connections, the qualities listed above that make human language such a pliable resource also illustrate the big difference between us and our pets.
What do you think? Does your experience with pets support or contradict this assessment? Tell us about the most remarkable example of animal communication you’ve witnessed.
I agree that animals do not understand our language, they just learn to associate sound with action. This was a very interesting article.
Well, with my dog “tiny”. I totatlly agree with the subject on dogs being able to not actually know they word but when they hear it they can interpret that it means to the action that occured when the word was said. He knows when we say “tinkle” he will know from previous memories that we want him to use the bathroom.
yea up!! I got a doggie that understand lots of words and her name is betty boop! i tell her to go number and two she does out the door and so on….i liked her a lot, couse her understanding she end up given me.
Is this really such a surprise? My dog is smarter than some of the kids at my school-and she’s smarter than both of my parents combined. Besides, humans learn in much the same way. Don’t you think about what your school/work looks, sounds, and smells like when leaving for school/work in the morning? When you go somewhere new, don’t you remember what it’s like by what your senses perceive? Don’t you remember what someone looks like; what their voice sounds like, when you meet them for the first time? Animals do the same thing. An animal is not comfortable simply because he or she is given food and water. Affection, friendliness, and a down-to-earth vibe is essential when meeting an animal, just like meeting a human. Actually, in many ways animals are physically and mentally superior to humans. They can immediately know whether or not someone is trustworthy and a good person. They have amazing noses, eyes, and/or ears in some cases; and/or they are faster, stronger and/or more agile; and/or they can fly outside of a plane, depending on the animal.
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and in even more ways, humans are physically and mentally superior to most animals.
We developed ways to fly inside of airplanes, we have thumbs, we have rubix cubes, we do math, and we make Steak.
I love animals, but the human capacity to communicate is absolutely marvellous. The beauty of the different languages around the world, the ability some people have to put feelings into words, poetry… it’s a human prerogative.
Well I have to say that some dogs are very smart and some just understand a little. Like for example, dogs are animals that understand little words like sit, stand , and roll over why? because these are words that you can learn real easy and fast but you have to keep training them and then you will see how fast they learn each little word that you tell them. So remember dogs can only understand little words NOT big ones. By the way I liked this article it was very intresting.
[...] Dolittle on animal language is the only source we need. — We’re still not on Twitter — Animal language we [...]
i think its true if you tell a dog what a ruff surface feels like he will say ruff
I think this is an interesting article.
I loved an albino Australian Shepard named Lucy once, who was deaf. She learned sign language and reacted to it as any hearing animal would oral commands. She was the most loving and intelligent being (including humans) I’ve ever known.
I have a Pug named PJ. He understands most of what I am talking about whether to him or someone else. He is a very smart kid…
cats understand btr
1. In elementary school, we had a visitor demonstrate his trained dog -that- knew 400 words. (He showed us the dog, not all 400 words.)
2. Sometimes cat communications can be a bit puzzling– On the way out the door to go on a date, I quick-petted my girlfriend’s cat waiting there, who then snagged my finger with a single claw… then did it to my girlfriend too…. Not sure, but the cat may have thought it better we stay home….
Very interesting article. I train dogs and it is a very black and white world. I can associate a behavior or object with a “word” but I can’t explain to them why peeing in the house is not ok and peeing outside is preferred.
What I find even more interesting is that dogs can learn some human words but humans don’t “really” know what a dog is saying with every wimper, bark or whine. We speculate but do we really know that they would prefer the liver pate’ tonight instead of the chicken surprise based on the sound they utter?
This article is about dogs learning language and communication through words. I didn’t read that the animals are not smart, this is not what the article mean. Animals are smart and learn to communicate with us, but not at the same way as humans do. Of course, they learn much more to adapt in our lives than we do to adapt to them. That would be funny if we decide to live in a forest among dogs to be like them, but they still see their human families like other dogs from their pack and know that the strongest is going to be the leader, unless they are treated like kings among the humans.
I watch a documentary a day ago about how monkey communicate to each other and I notice that the way they communicate have to do with learning a language. This may be out of topic but the documentary just make me know the source of all human’s activity. In the documentary they protect each other through sound, each family have a sound that they use to identified each other and each position in a family or communities come with different sound so people to identified their presence, if you are a king you have a different sound that you will make, if you are a mother you will have a different sound that you will have to make, if you are just a male looking for a female you will have a different sound that you will make and so on like that, every different person have different sound and all monkey understand each different sound.
You are so right, Phoebe123. Animals are so much better than we are that we should just give up our rights and live in subjection to them, because our minds, though significantly more advanced regarding the things that we can do and create, truly are inferior to animal minds . I mean, they are “physically and mentally superior to humans” after all.
great article, i acually think its true that dogs understand some of our language
Okay. first of all, this article reminds me of babies..when you say cookie to a baby, it may start pointing to your pantry, knowing it’s there. (assuming this is all after you have fed the baby the cookie, opening the pantry in front of it and taking the cookie out..) when it’s old enough to walk/crawl, it might even open the pantry doors and say cookie. obviously, babies aren’t born from the womb naturally knowing what a cookie is and where it can be found in the house. it learns from senses. you say cookie, it doesn’t know what it is. you feed it to her and tell her cookie. you put the cookies in the pantry..gradually, it begins to be associated with la galleta. (cookie)
Anyways, I like this article
and to Phoebe123, the bottom half of your article makes no sense..
and humans are the greatest creatures. yes, some animals are faster, stronger, more agile, have better eyesight, etc..
but humans in general are far more dominant when you look at it all. animals can’t speak english..or any other language for that matter. they aren’t even close to as smart as us or capable of the amazing things humans do. you can compare one animal to another, but not to us. that’s a whole different story..
if you love animals so much, maybe you could be reincarnated into one..
just kidding, I don’t believe in that.
I meant to say the bottom half of your comment isn’t relevant to the article. lol sorry, my mistake.
I don’t think animals can comprehend the concept of language… I think that they just associate sounds with actions, like Rachael said. I have 2 rats and when I click my tongue they run up to me because they know that means they’ll get a treat. I trained them with a click, but I could have used a word and they would learn to associate that with receiving a treat as well. I’m not saying that they’re not intelligent, though. They are. And this dog is amazing!
I read an article about this.It said that dogs got this human reading skill from their wolf descendants. Wolves developed this skill as time went by as a way of survival to find out where people threw away food or garbage. I was surprised.
My cat has heard my family say hello to eachother, so she does it too. It sounds more like “maro” or “malah” though. Interesting thing about cats, if they make a sound in a questioning tone and you respond with the same sound in an affirmative tone, it means yes.
The story is really interesting and most most us know about these assessment. My experience with pets support that they will communicate with humans as well as with animals. But, I hope, pets use gestural, and feeling for communication not words except few pets like parrot etc. They understand the meaning of few words. We closely observe that dogs starts wagging tail when they need food and birds do sound when they feel hungry. I truly agree that 7 properties of human language are not same as in pets.
Have a nice time for all of you.
I have a tiny dog named oliver and he understands every word i say. Or at least he acts like he does!
I mean he i can look at him and say do you want to go outside and he know what i mean so he runs to the door and waits for me to open it. Also he knows what no means. If I am doing something and he (lets say is on the couch) He know what i mean when i say to get down without any hand signals. He listens and he understands.
I think dogs have an untapped understanding of human language. I do not believe they have the capacity to understand the very complex elements of human language but they do have cognitive sets (example: when I ask my dog, Do you want to go outside? she runs to her leash or goes and gets a ball I can throw to her, she knows what is associated with the word “outside”). My dog has astounded me with her ability to distinguish specific items within a larger category. She knows the word “toy” and when I tell her to get one she will run and get one (could be a ball, a plush animal, a rope, etc…), but when I say “no, go get me your dinosaur” [her plush toy] or “go get me a ball” she will get that object and not another “toy”. That’s my personal anecdote about the depth of the understanding of my dog. As a psych major it surprised me that she could understand the category and items within it which could indicate a deeper semantic understanding of important objects and categories than at least I had previously assumed. One thing is certain, she more smarter than I is
If dogs don’t understand language, then why is it that you can be sitting at a table and ignoring them completely, with them in another room even, and if you say the word “dog” they will perk up and trot over to you? This happens with my two yellow labs all the time. I’ll be eating dinner with my husband and I’ll say something like, “The neighbors got a new dog.” Next thing you know, both dogs are looking at me like I called their name. Neither of their names, Moe and Rocco, sound remotely like dog. So how do they know? I’m not making a gesture or using a specific tone. Also, instead of the command “sit”, I say to them, “What do we do?” You can try to tell them to sit all day in the “What do we do?” tone and they won’t do it. If you say “What do we do?” in any tone of voice they will both sit right down. I love dogs.
I have a tiny puppy called fanta and she understands whst i say because when i was sad one day she came up to me and cuddled up to me and made me happier so when i got up i said treat time and she ran into the kitchen and waited at her bowl and when I say bed she runs straight into her bed!!!
So i believe they do understand what we say xxx
I thought my dog was smart!? :0
I think that my dog is lot smarter than my students, I have to say some things only one time and she will remember:) And it feels like she knows all the words, so I have to spell ” walk” to trick her
Yes, they defiantly do understand some, or sometimes I jus have to say it real loud. So im pretty sure tone has something to do with it.
Well dogs are really smart in their own way if you ask me. My dog sasha is really smart(most of the time anyway.)When I say wanna go for a walk she will run to her leash and bring it to me then she trys to put it one all by herself! It makes me so happy to think my dog is smart, that is until she does something really stupid like get scared if she sees her own shadow.
My dog understands certain words. Most dogs sit when people to tell them to… so it’s not fair to say that dogs don’t understand anything when they don’t understand everything. Some dogs are very smart, some are… not. But they’re all cute!
OF COURSE DOGS UNDERSTAND HUMANS,if u teach them
The flip side of this is why we humans make little attempt to relate to our dogs through their language, but expect them to completely understand all 7 of the aspects of human language. Let’s give them a bit of respect and try to become bilingual ourselves!
I am the owner of my grandmothers retired guide dog. I remember being amazed as a child when I first met Lucia and saw her in action. This dog “knew” left, right, forward, halt, follow, go to the curb, find the door inside, find the door outside, go home, do your business, go to the mailbox, find the passenger’s side (of the car), where is [insert family member name here] and more. Then she went and rained on that parade with a whole bunch of scientific “nonsense” that I refused to believe. Eventually I began to agree with her, but this aricle reawakened that sense of wonder I had forgotten. Thank you.
First of all, I would like to start off by saying that over 99% of animal species in the world have their own form of advanced communication, and many thousands of biologists spend years studying these languages and are often unable to make any progress in deciphering them.
Many animals are far superior to us physically; some are able to literally last years without food or water, many can run several times faster than us, many can fly, many can dig, etc. The point is that many species are specialized to do one specific thing, and said-species is VERY good at that specific thing.
Humans, being animals, have evolved to become very good at physiological adaptation. We honestly are very hindered in the physical department. We are generally slow runners, we have little to no camouflage, we are very weak, pound for pound, compared to most other species of animal, we are slow swimmers and climbers, and we cannot fly. We simply have been designed to create and adapt to our environments with our brains, which most, if not all, of animals do anyways. Humans have nothing going for them other than intelligence and opposable thumbs, so we are good at adapting and creating. Simple as that.
i totally agree with Pheobe
I hate this article
I don’t know and i don’t care about this article
THIS ARTICLE IS AWESOME YEAh
This article is so so cool i mean yeaah dogs do understand what is the word means. If u just JOKEing u r in!!! hahahahahahahaha.
I have a 102 lb long haired German Shepard dog and I swear, he has a vocabulary of over 200 words. I talk to him constantly. My husband, now deceased, would always ask me who I was talking to….or ask our son Christopher, who is mom talking to? The dog. Grizwald Ludwick VonBarron is a very good listener. If he brings his inside toys outside, I will tell him to bring them back in the house, they are inside toys. The same goes for outside toys, they stay outside if he brings them in I tell him to take them ouside. He understands when he is going to the doctors, I alway perpare him a day or two in advance that he is going to the doctors. He knows when we go bye bye in my car he gets the back seat. If I told him to take something to daddy, he would put it in his mouth and take it to daddy. He is a working dog by nature so when we go for our daily walks, his job is to carry sand bags on his back. When I mention walks he will go get his leash and bring it to me and he will bring me his sand bag pouch right after. He carries 3 lbs of sand…..it’s to let him know that’s his job. Yes, I firmly beleive that some dogs have a very extensive vocabulary. I know mine does. No one better argue that with me if they know what’s good for them!! He also know his body parts; head, ears, nose, eyes, back, tummy, paws, tail. He comes from a line of show dogs so he has very good genes.
They CAN understand our language, but not all of it. While we say some words they respond, but others they don’t. And whether we add plurals or not doesn’t always hinder them. To say a dog recognizes the sound of the word when we speak it is only believable if we say the same word to the dog in the same exact pitch at the same exact volume.
My dog recognizes her name. When we call Pupper, she immediately comes, but when we say PUPPY in the same pitch and volume, she doesn’t acknowledge it as her name. Oddly enough, when we say PUPPY she goes looking for another dog. So how can someone say that animals can’t understand ANY language, or only the pitch. It’s ridiculous. I don’t think animals will ever be able to grasp our language the way others do, but they DO understand some words and recognize them despite sound.
Why would a dog wag its tail if you say PARK the same way as your say BARK? According to this, the dog wouldn’t. But anyone with an “intelligent” dog can contribute that the animal does respond differently to the words. And what we must also understand is that dogs are like people. Some are intelligent and take our breath away at their sheer brilliance. And a very good majority are as dumb as rocks. You know, like people.
I learned to spell WALK whenever I was communicating
with another in person or on the phone. If not, my
dogs ears would point and he would start running
around before I was ready to go for one.
What I find funny is that one person says “Humans are mentally superior . . . we have thumbs”.
Thumbs were not grown in the womb because as fetuses we though “Hey, I wanna pick stuff up so I’ll need a thumb” *pop* “There we go”.
Then Humans are more dominate? Yes, by dominate we mean we deforest and destroy natural habitats that were put there for a reason and shove every other creature out of the way for our own convenience. THAT is dominance. A perfect display of our intellect: destroying the only inhabitable planet in this solar system. It boggles me how humans think they are so superior just because they believe they can think!
Humans have done NOTHING to better the world FOR the WORLD, only themselves, and even then we walk over each other. Animals have NEVER had that issue. The environment is stable, the atmosphere is clean. Nothing is out of balance . . . until a human walks in.
In a movie many years ago, an actor referring to their trained dolphins, said that, they do not understand the subjunctive form (‘were we to consider the full extent of language skills that might be demonstrated or imitated by animals’)… So, I always wondered whether that was a screenwriter spouting story, or a scientific fact…
of course dogs understand words, at least some, and they can even process information in an abstract way. as in ‘find the toy’, they know what toy is, know what find it means, may not know where it is at but do know likely scenarios for finding it, will scan those places till toy is found and then knows it will reap reward for finding toy by being able to play with it. that’s a pretty complex set of actions to go through with only a three word instigation. we should give dogs, and other animals as well, a lot more credit for understanding us. not only do they know many words, they also empathize and sympathize with us.
i had a rottweiler at one time and i understood what she was saying to me some of the time. she had several distinct barks listed as follows:
barking at train you can’t hear yet (i lived by the tracks)
barking at storm coming
barking at animal other than dog in yard
barking at another dog
barking at human walking down road
barking at human coming up in yard
barking at car coming up in yard
barking just for the sake of making noise:)
these were all distinct tones and patterns she used and were very reliable pieces of information for me, i always knew by the sound of her bark what was going on in the yard.
it’s Classic Conditioning established by Ivan Pavlov in 1927
Dogs are intelligent animals, but it’s foolish to try and stick MAN-MADE ideals and inventions on nonhuman-animals.
Dogs do use their own language- through different barks, growls, whimpers, huffs, moans, grumbles, etc.- and through body language- tail up is dominance, tail kinked is aggressive dominance, ears flat against head is stress, ears hanging at ease show calmness- there are dozens of other sounds and signs, and hundreds of different combinations of both verbal and physical signs, creating a rudimentary language.
As I said, it’s terribly stupid to try to compare human languages to animal languages, mainly because we try to make everything we do so human-specific that it alienates us from the animal kingdom. It’s why I always get pissed off when people complain about Coyotes eating free roaming Cats- how are wild animals supposed to know that Cats are off-limits, but Rabbits and other similar animals aren’t?
Mark V- You aren’t a very good listener, are you?
“and in even more ways, humans are physically and mentally superior to most animals.
We developed ways to fly inside of airplanes, we have thumbs, we have rubix cubes, we do math, and we make Steak.”
What you just said backs up Greg’s main statement about humans:
“We simply have been designed to create and adapt to our environments with our brains, which most, if not all, of animals do anyways. Humans have nothing going for them other than intelligence and opposable thumbs, so we are good at adapting and creating. Simple as that.”
All of those human advancements are thanks to out advanced mental capability! It wasn’t out strong, strong arms that invented the Rubix cube or our ripped pecs that designed some of the first successful airplane designs- it was the human brain, the most vulnerable but advanced feature of the human body.
Proportionately speaking, humans aren’t the most nimble or muscular animals. A cat can jump up onto a counter with ease- proportionately, it would be like a human leaping onto the top of a one-story building. Can you do that? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Mice are sexually mature at only a few month’s age. Might not sound impressive, but pinky mice are born much more vulnerable than humans, with closed eyes, ears, and no form of defense, save a tiny, tiny squeak that is barely even audible. They also have an average of FOUR siblings. I’m assuming your early years were similar? …No?
Also, we don’t make steak. Steak is only a section of meat that, technically, the host animal makes. We just cut it off and cook it. When I kill a deer, I don’t make the deer, the backstrap, or the ham, for that matter. Steak should be no different.
I can tell you that my two dogs Gunther and Willow surely understand the word, ” Milk Bone!” When hearing that word they are both jumping up and down for joy. When I tell Gunter blankie he dives right underneathe to go to sleep. They are sooooo cute!
This article is a very good find for me. I have to do a presentation for my animal communications class, and I think this is a very good subject to talk about. I am in a veterinary college, so I think I will use more than one animal in my presentation.
My dog amazes me everyday as he seems to know what I am talking about. He always seems to understand what I am saying, even when not talking directly too him. For instance, I was talking to my friend about going on a trip and I needed a dog sitter and Copper, my golden retriever, laid down facing away from me and sighed. He was in a less cheerful mood all day, until I took him for a walk
That’s kind cool…
Amy on February 9, 2011 at 9:20 am
Well dogs are really smart in their own way if you ask me. My dog sasha is really smart(most of the time anyway.)When I say wanna go for a walk she will run to her leash and bring it to me then she trys to put it one all by herself! It makes me so happy to think my dog is smart, that is until she does something really stupid like get scared if she sees her own shadow.
That is so funny. I think your doggy is smart even if she does get scared of her own shadow! I still think it is cute to think of your doggy putting onher own leash and getting ready to go for a walk!
Leave Comment on February 9, 2011 at 11:44 am
“I hate this article”
ariel on February 9, 2011 at 11:49 am
“I don’t know and i don’t care about this article”
How Could you hate this article, it’s about dogs…and dogs are awesome!
@Phoebe123: C’mon, dude, do you have to insult your parents? Not necessary…
My dog both proves and disproves this XD I’ve told him time and time again My room is a “No No” and to stay “Out” of it, what does he do the next time i turn my back? go into my room xD
But he also has been taught manners of dinner and breakfast time. He knows breakfast is outside first then some food and Dinner is sit pretty and wait for us to say “Go Ahead”. He also knows our word “Food” or the sound of crinkling means there’s something to eat about.
Then again he’s also smarter than us at times. He knows how to pull a table cloth so the food falls but any drinks don’t. (unless you put your food and drink side by side but i wouldn’t recommend that at my house) And he’s opened my lunch bag on more than one occasion if i’m not careful, but then again a two year old can open one of those xD
Anyway altogether in some ways i think this article in some ways depends on the dog, perhaps even the breed. For all we know with some of the older breeds being around us so long they might be evolving into a more intelligent species, coevolution and all those terms :3 maybe i should ask my Science teacher if that’s possible while we’re on the evolution section still.
That’s totally amazing! That owner must have had a lot of time on their hands!
I think the main two words my dog knows are “NO Molly!” or “Bad Dog”
Luckily we don’t have to use those words very often on my dog, unless she’s pissing (well, i’m an 11 year old. . . so I’ll say piddling) on the floor or eating out of the compost bucket-Yuck!
I disagree with the premise of the article. I have a German Shepard who not only is aware of the quantity of food and water but who will ration my other dogs eating and drinking based on the amount of food or water left in reserve. This clearly infers active planning. He is also a very quick study. How I treat him is a model for how he treats my other dog. He will actually discipline my other dog at times if he sees him commit an infraction. He has guided children away from dangers and is endlessly fascinated with small mammals. He’ll literally sit for hours watching a gerbil (not as potential food). Just the sort of fascination a human would have.
Dogs do understand context. They go more by tone than actual phonetics. If you have a dog use the exact same tone and inflection but change the word a little and they will understand what your saying. A dog is going much more by body language than humans do as well. However they are able to denote when you mean treat or go outside even if you use the same exact word and tone from where you are at and what you are doing.
Dogs also learn from other dogs. If a certain behavior or sound produces an effect they will mimic that behavior to gain that effect. They also have a number of distinct sounds that comprise a primitive language. Some of them compound sounds and all of them accompanied by a great deal of body language. My lab is a one dog sound machine. He makes sounds I’ve never heard uttered by a dog before. He is also very expressive. Using a combination of barks he can create multi-syllable words. The words convey meaning, intensity and mood all in a single utterance. He is also very expressive with facial expressions.
Today my Pomeranian, Zoe Bear, is 12 years old. I stopped teaching her new toys some years ago (because I ran out of room), but she knows the name of and can reliably retrieve 203 toys (some of which she taught herself, as Chaser has, by deduction). She can also understand a complex command, such as, “Go into the bedroom and get black-spotted purple frog.) She also knows 24 colors and 50 commands (and is very sweet and loving). Here is an article about her that was in the February 2007 issue of the Reader’s Digest:
And here is a link to her set on my Flickr page:
Note that at the end are some short iPhone videos of her learning and performing.
Steven Pinker’s ideas were rejected by scholars in the field even before his book was published. The Canine Cognition Lab’s at Duke & Harvard had already debunked these ideas. Why bring them up here?
I LOVE THIS ARTICLE
I had a Malamute who seemed to instinctively understood what I was saying. She brought me dead animal “gifts” until I told her that I really loved her and wanted her to have them; if she really wanted to bring me a gift, something for the kitchen would be nice. The next day, she brought me a crystal candy dish; the day after, she brought a water glass to match the dish. Never another dead animal gift! This continued with cookie sheets, cake pans, plates, bowls, a gallon-size Rubbermaid mixing bowl, etc. One day she brought me a large pressure canner that someone had evidently left on their back porch to cool. I told her that I appreciated the thoughtful gesture, but canner’s come with a lid with a steam vent in the top and it was not as useful without it. The next day, she had brought the canner lid onto our front porch.
I put the items she brought me out where they could be seen from the road – I didn’t know who they belonged to and figured people would recognize their belongings and come to get them. They never did. After a couple of weeks on display, I would sterilize them and keep them (but I did give my sister-in-law the set of amber glass cookware that she admired). I didn’t know what else to do and the dog was so happy to bring me things she thought I wanted. She was a brilliant, loving, and kind soul, good with children and other animals (actually allowed a litter of kittens to nurse after her puppies were weaned).
We have also had dogs that hardly knew their own names, so like with humans, dogs come with all levels of capabilities.
“Critters” can talk and communitate in their language and in ours. Being around us they take on understanding of our meanings. Plants do the same but in a more refined way/ The entire cosmos is alive with intelligence, but the Godless remain committed to not understanding this in our human domain. Look for: LeMuria Unbound@hotmail.com for comprehension…humans.
This is a good example of a nonstory.
I don’t believe it. My dog understands and communicates meaning in complex situations. Once, my pregnant sister in law and my brother came to visit. I offered them my son’s bed (he wasn’t home) but the dog (who’d been standing next to me) ran into my son’s room and jumped up on the bed, then growled just a little. She’s far from a mean dog, but we all got it. Boys’ bed was off limits.
I saw the NOVA show on the dog that knows all its toys by name. Not sure how. But why does my neighbor’s dog who barks day and night not
understand “shut up?”
My Bichon Frise knows a little bit of French. For example, when he is hungry he says “boeuf,” expressing his preference for “beef.”
I think the studies are missing the point. Communication is a dialogue, and is predicated on both parties understanding agreed upon modes of communication. So far, we’ve expected animals to fully understand our mode of communication without taking into consideration their side of the dialogue. I never expected my cat to walk up to me and say “Mom, there’s something terribly wrong with the back of my head and I really need to go to the vet before you take off for your weekend trip tomorrow morning,” in my language. However, I knew my cat and his body language very well, and when I came home from school one day and saw him, everything about his body language and the tone of his meow (that damn cat had a very expressive meow…) told me there was something seriously wrong with him. I took him to the vet that minute, and the vet wasn’t able to find anything wrong.
Fast forward 4 days, and I’ve come home from my weekend trip to find my cat with a gaping hole in the back of his head, and he’s in serious pain. Like the good parent I tried to be, I took him to the vet immediately and the vet told me he had an abscess. What he couldn’t understand, though, was how I had known that there was something wrong with him 4 days ago. The vet had been looking for tell-tale signs of the abscess and couldn’t find any. The only thing I could tell him is that my cat basically told me there was something wrong. I read his body language, and I’d become so attuned to his various meows that I knew what that one meant, that he was asking for help.
I honestly think these studies need to be two sided, and look at how animals not only learn to understand our language, but also learn to navigate expressing their needs and desires to us. I don’t think it’s much different than 2 people sitting in a room who speak different languages learning to communicate basic things to each other despite the language barrier.
My standard poodle knew how to spell. I could say “out” or say “spell the word o u t, and he understood the meaning. The same with the word ball.
I have cats and dogs and most of them know their names and come when called (except for cats, who do as they damn please; but when they refuse to come, they will turn their ears in my direction at the name and not another pet’s name).
My two mutts certainly understand words. If I ask if they want to go out, they go to the front door. If I say, “no not that one, the other one” they will rush to a different room. I call anything I feed them “din-din.” If I ask, “do you want din-din?” they will run from the room and make a beeline to their dishes in the kitchen.
Even if they associate actions with words, the bottom line is that they still understand the word has a meaning.
Do you know how much I hate websites that won’t let you exit them with the Back button?
I hate them with the heat of a thousand burning suns, that’s how much.
Dogs simply have some innate abilities humans simply don’t have,but wished they did. Finding your way home, even across hundreds or thousands of miles, without asking directions. Hearing very high frequencies and responding immediately. Labs can detect colorectal and bowel cancer with 98 % accuracy, Shepherd can detect road-side bombs,Jack Russels can sniff out bedbugs w 95% success rate. Which of these can you do?
@ Dida: I have to do that to my dog too…unfortunately I think he is catching on to the spelling because he is starting to act the same way as if I really said “Walk”
I do belive that dogs understand the meaning of word. My nana has a dog, Oliver, and one time he pooped on her side of the bed. And my nana said, “Oliver, if you poop on my side of the bed, I will sell your but.” And that was a year ago. However, since then, Oliver has never pooped on my nanas side of the bed.
I have a two year old beagle that always amazes me. She understands a lot of what I say and even more of my body language. One of the things she does that I find interesting is that if I am in my bedroom and I’m awake and someone comes in she simply lifts her head,but if I am sleeping who ever happens to walk into my room is meant with a very menacing growl,and Gracie does not have a mean bone in her body!
My cat, Mystik, is the most intelligent of any animal i’ve ever witnessed myself. He’s an American Shorthair, nothing more. His deductive reasoning and creative problem solving is nothing short of incredible. Most amazing part: i never intentionally tried to train him on much of anything. i should’ve seen the clues coming… Cats automatically seemed to spontaneously start using their front limbs like arms (as monkeys do). He observes, he studies… He even attempts to mimic my “talking”
My American Eskimo dog responds to many words…but also to a sequence of events. They associate your repeated pattern after you say a word. If i say “Do you want to take a bath?”…she gets under the bed. If I say “Do you want a treat?” she runs to the kitchen where they are kept. I have an unusual dog who hates the leash and doesn’t want to go walking. She has a big back yard to run so we don’t go for long walks. If I say, “Shall I get the leash?” she jumps up on the bed and lies quietly on a pillow. An Eskie is an unusually affectionate dog to her owners and family; but not too great for strangers unless they are properly socialized.
From my experience dogs can understand the language of their owners. Whilst in Thailand I made a point of speaking to the dogs there. There was no recognition of anything that was said in either a friendly or scolding tone when spoken to in English, but when spoken to in Thai some wagged their tails others followed us. I am positive our two furkids
understand English. We have talked about going out in the car without any inflection in our voices while sitting at the table. Both dogs will hurry to the door and sit waiting