What dogs understand from their owners


There are often amazing stories on super intelligent dogs in the news, understanding more than we ever realised they could. But in fact our own dogs at home often know more than we think they do. We give them signals unconsciously every day that they learn from and constant exposure to our language and associated actions and objects is also absorbed by them. Volume, pitch and tone of voice are part of their interpretation, so remaining consistent with commands is important; try a firm, low voice at speaking volume rather than shouting.

Every dog is an individual and will learn differently and like us their interests differ too, so whilst a highly active spaniel will be watching you for any signs of an imminent dog walk, a hungry pug is more interested in guarding entry to the kitchen. But in some areas, their interests converge. Most dogs want to be sure that they are still high in your affections and that you’re not planning to leave anytime soon. For instance, bringing the suitcases down is a certain flag to a departure and subsequent bad behaviour. Unexpected spring cleaning and furniture moving will be treated with suspicion that something is afoot.

However, it’s when you take your dog to training that it becomes obvious they’ve been coasting along. With a professional dog trainer there is no breed that can’t be taught essential commands, learn new activities (like tracking, scenting and retrieving) and, even more importantly, enjoy interacting properly with you.

There is a lot you can do at home though – there are IQ quizzes online and breed information to give you an idea of where your dog’s abilities lie, and regular sessions running through essential commands at home will help your dog understand your expectations of him too.



2 thoughts on “What dogs understand from their owners”

  1. Our Jack Russell cross refused to learn any commands we deliberately tried to train into her, yet she learnt that change being picked up, keys being rattled and shoes put on precedes a trip out. She picked up that ‘you stay here’ meant she wasn’t coming with us and she would go back to her bed. Somehow she also learnt that us saying “see you later” meant we were going to walk away whether she came or not, and that she’d better catch up. Since going blind she has learnt the meaning of this way, follow me (for when she needs to follow in my exact footsteps), up, down (meaning she is approaching a drop or step down), over (for an obstacle like a log or root), steady ( for a slightly dangerous situation) and STOP (for a Really dangerous situation) But Sit? Lie Down? Stay? Not a chance.

  2. Hi Fen. It sounds like you have a very smart little Jack Russell on your hands. It’s amazing the way that, on starting to lose her sight, she will learn to depend more heavily on her other senses and is paying more attention to whereabouts you are.

    It sounds like she has mastered a fair few commands, but it does make you wonder with stubborn breeds. I have a terrier also, who happily learnt most of the basic tricks (usually with a treat as motivation) but has always refused others. Much as I would like her to ‘roll over’, she has never even entertained the notion for a minute!


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