Can dogs understand humans?

April 13, 2012

There is no dumb dog for a clever master. Dogs are animals, yes. But these intelligent animals have been the companions of man since the beginning of time. As such, dogs have not only bonded well with humans but they also have developed a rather unique understanding of their human friends. Are you one of the dog owners that brag about the dog’s ability to understand humans?

It is quite amusing to watch how these four legged darling can manipulate humans to do whatever they want to do. Who can ever say no to the pleading look in the dog’s eyes? No dog lover can resist doleful eyes and the extended paw of a dog that wants to have a bite of the steak on the master’s plate. Somehow the dog would know that when it whines or bark excitedly, a pat, a cuddle or a treat is forthcoming.

Dogs are intelligent animals. Some are smarter than others, some would challenge the patience of owners but these dogs can be trained eventually. Many articles were written about the dog’s human like abilities. Humans and dogs have many genetic similarities. Therefore it is not surprising if professed dog lovers credit the dog with human-like characteristics. Among the animals, dogs are the only ones that form the strongest attachment with humans. Human and dog association that spanned thousands and thousands of years enabled these animals to learn the ways of humans. Dogs are dubbed as man’s best friends precisely for this reason.

Dogs can understand about 250 words of the human language. This is why dogs would respond to the fetch, down, stop, sit and to other short phrase commands. However dog psychologists believe that dogs understand these words differently from the way they are understood by humans. A dog’s understanding of human is greatly influenced by the cause and effect association. The stimulus will be associated by the dog to a response. For instance, the dog will not understand that the leash is a device that is used on the neck to restrict the dog’s movements. When the master says the word leash, it will be associated by the dog to the chance of walking. My dog certainly understands the word bath. As soon as I say the word, the dog would whine and look at me with a woeful expression. The dog hates the water and the sound of the word bath would make the dog scamper.

Dogs are known for their famous ultrasensitive senses. Dogs are noted to have a 6th sense as well. The senses are used by the dog to understand human emotions. Dogs are highly attuned to the feelings of the master. These animals do not have the ability to talk. Dogs have a very limited understanding of our language. Nevertheless, dogs can understand humans simply by observing the human body language, by listening to the voice and seeing the facial expression. A dog that has gnawed and destroyed the carpet would know that the master is displeased as soon as the mess is seen. Notice how the dog would slink away trying to avoid being punished.

Skeptics argue that dogs do not really understand humans. How would you explain the dog’s habit of raiding the trash can in spite of the master’s repeated admonishment? It was argued further that dogs respond well to training because they are motivated by positive reinforcements. Dogs will certainly look forward to receiving a treat after the sound of the clicker is heard.

This notion would make you wonder at the dog’s capability to offer comfort when the master is sad and to jump excitedly when the happy voice of the master is heard. Do dogs really understand humans? Or is it just wishful thinking on the part of dog lovers that tend to anthropomorphize the pet?

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