Anyone who has owned a dog will know that they really do understand what you say. Research backs that up – the average trained canine can recognize around 160 different words. Their actual abilities may be far more extensive, though.
Certain dogs have been shown to recognize a truly amazing number of terms. Not only that, but they can understand sentences consisting of nouns, verbs, adjectives and pronouns, like “Bring your big ball.”
Once, my mother told her Doberman to “Go find your brother.” That is actually a pretty complex concept, and since they lived on a farm and the other dog was far off, it’s unlikely that he just decided to run out of the house, locate him in some woods, and convince him to come back, all by accident and at just that particular moment.
Professor of psychology John Pilley decided to approach this question scientifically with the help of his Border Collie, Chaser. By the time of her owner’s death from leukemia in June, Chaser could identify more than a thousand different of her toys (lucky dog!) by name. She also understood that a concept like “tree” could apply to several different objects of a given class, that the same object could have more than one name, and could even learn new words by inference.
Although written by a scientist, this book is presented as a story, with training tips and theory introduced as they become relevant. The narrative of Chaser’s journey is truly heartwarming, and will inspire every dog-lover to see their little furball in a new light.
Unfortunately, this communication tends to go only one way – dogs’ vocal cords are just not capable of human speech. Perhaps we’ll soon find a workaround to this, like teaching chimpanzees sign language. If anyone was looking for an idea for a startup, you’re very welcome.