Clever dogs know more than “sit” and “fetch”

Dogs understand human language far beyond the usual commands of “sit and fetch”.

They are adept at picking up the differences in words like “hid” and “had”.

And some can have an extensive “vocabulary”.

A border collie called Chaser from North Carolina could identify more than 1,000 toys by name and fetch them on request.

The research papers from the University of Sussex also found dogs can decipher accents.

Dr Holly Root-Gutteridge, the first author of the study, said:

“In cartoon strips, dogs listening to their owners are shown to hear ‘blah, blah, blah, walkies’.

“But these results show they have more advanced language skills than we give them credit for, and I actually know dogs that can respond to 75 different commands.

“Dogs probably gained the ability to distinguish between the barks of other dogs so they could work out their size, and then they started paying attention to our language after we domesticated them.”

The study of 42 dogs was published in Biology Letters.

Dr Root-Gutteridge, said: “This research shows that, despite previous assumptions, this spontaneous ability is not uniquely human and that dogs share this linguistic talent, suggesting that speech perception may not be as special to humans as we previously thought.”



About the Author

Philip Braund spent 16 years at the Daily Mirror as a reporter and news editor before moving to ITV. He was the series producer of the ground-breaking investigation programme The Cook Report, Managing Editor at ITV's Millbank Studios, and Head of News at ITV Central. He has won national and regional Royal Television Society awards for documentaries.

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