Do Pets Really Understand What We Say?

We all love our pets, and we all talk to them, whether it’s asking our cat to get off the counter or our dog to not grab our shoes.

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So the question remains, do pets understand us?

Several studies have been conducted to find out whether pets understand when their humans talk to them. However, there hasn’t been a definitive answer. Some experts say they understand some cues while others completely dismiss the possibility of pets understanding the lingo.

We don’t know whether the dogs and cats understand what we are telling them or they only follow the sounds we make directed at them. However, they can understand some meanings of individual words.

Operant conditioning

Pets can understand what we mean through operant conditioning. When you call out your dog’s name and give them a treat, they will associate that behavior with a reward. So every time you call out their name, they will respond. The sound of their name in their head will have a positive consequence.

Cats vs. Dogs

A study conducted in 2013 by the University of Tokyo found evidence that cats, despite their behavior, can tell when their owners talk to them. Cat owners may think their words are being ignored, but the study reported that they respond to their owner’s voice, even when they can’t see the owner.

Compared to the cat owners, dog owners, have a little more reassurance that dogs understand when they are being spoken to. Verbal commands are a big part of a dog’s training session. Dogs can understand 160 words.

Not only that, research suggests that dogs and cats can understand more than one language. They can also understand more than one person. In the military, dogs are trained to understand more than one language. A lot of English-speaking dog handlers also teach the dogs German. Using different languages is a great way for the dog to understand the difference between work and play.

Energy is everything

Pets don’t typically understand the semantic in a word. What they hear and understand is sound that requires a certain response. Animals tend to respond to the energy of their owners. That’s why during training sessions, owners are asked to use excited voices when their dogs do something positive. They are asked to yell “good boy or girl.” If you say the same thing in an aggressive tone, your pet will think you are upset with them. If you use a sweet voice for taking the fish out of the fishbowl, it could think you are going to reward her.

Cognitive abilities of dogs

In a study published in 2012 in Current Biology, some researchers studied the ability of dogs to understand communication in humans. The study involved dogs who were made to watch two separate versions of the same video. In the first video, a woman looked at the dog and said, “Hi, dog,” in a nurturing tone and then directed her focus towards a pot nearby. In the other version, the woman said the same thing but looked down and spoke in a low voice before turning her gaze to the pot.

During the first video, dogs paid attention to the woman and followed her gaze. Based on this reaction, it was concluded that dogs possess similar cognitive abilities to that of a six to twelve-month-old infant for recognizing when they are being spoken to or when something is said to them.

Body language

Although cats are not social animals, they communicate with us through their body language. They can be perceptive and understand how you are feeling and what mood you are in.

Knowing what type of tone and gestures to use when communicating with your pets is essential. Even if you feel like your pets can’t understand you when you speak to them, they can certainly understand visual signals, body language, and the excitement levels in our voices.

In return, you should understand their body language to make communication between you and your pets easier. Study their behavior, and always make sure your voice and body language are playful and gentle.

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