As pet owners, we can’t help but wonder why our beloved furry friends don’t share the same gift of speech as us humans.
While it may be easy to imagine having a conversation with our four-legged friends, the reality is that dogs and humans communicate in very different ways.
In this blog post, we’ll explore why dogs can’t talk, such as the physical differences in their vocal cords, their limited capacity to understand human language and other communication barriers.
Why Dogs Can’t Talk Like Humans
Dogs can’t talk because their brains are different from human brains.
While the human brain can take in information and understand it, a dog doesn’t have this ability.
Dogs can understand certain words, commands, and voice tones, but that’s all.
This article will discuss why dogs can’t talk in more detail.
We will also discuss what they can understand and some of the best ways to communicate with your dog.
NOTE – You might want to take a look at this post asking the question: do dogs find humans cute?
Do Dogs Understand Speech?
Dogs don’t understand speech because of the way their brains work.
But they do recognize specific commands such as “lie down” or “stay.” They can also pick up on emotions.
So, for example, your dog will pick up on it if you speak with an angry tone.
Dogs can pick up on your different emotions and voice tones, especially if they’ve been around you for a long time.
For example, you might notice your dog keeps their head down and looks guilty when you’re speaking in a firm, angry tone.
This is because they can sense your anger and don’t want to disappoint you (or they may feel guilty).
The same goes for when you’re happy. If you speak to your dog in a happy and excited tone, they will likely pick up on that and act excited.
Your behavior around your dog affects their behavior and mood, so it’s important to be as happy and cheerful as possible around your precious pooch, or at least be mindful of how your mood can affect theirs.
But unfortunately, your dog won’t understand what you’re saying if you string a complete sentence together.
It’s important to realize that humans are the most complex animals on the planet, so understandably, dogs (and all other animals) can’t keep up with us.
This isn’t the dog’s fault; it’s simply how nature works.
NOTE – You might also be interested in this post looking at why some dogs cry in the car.
Will Dogs Ever Be Able To Talk?
Dogs won’t ever be able to talk because their brains don’t function the same way human brains do.
Although there may be technology in the future that translates a dog’s brain activity into words, dogs will never have the capability to do this alone.
Human brains have more folds than dog brains, making ours much more complicated.
Even the most intelligent dog on the planet wouldn’t come close to the level of smartness the average (or even below average) human has.
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Things That Dogs Understand
It’s no secret that dogs don’t understand human speech (for the most part) and cannot talk.
However, there are some things that dogs understand pretty well.
So, it’s good to know what these things are if you want to improve communication with your dog.
So now, let’s look at the main things dogs do understand:
Dogs can be highly perceptive even though they can’t speak, so they will often sense when you’re sad, angry, or happy.
This is especially true if your dog has lived with you for a long time.
Not only can they sense when you’re feeling a certain way, but they will also try to make you feel better if it’s a negative emotion.
If you are feeling negative emotions around your dog, it could also affect their mood negatively.
No dog wants to see its owner upset, so you should pay attention to your dog’s behavior the next time you’re not in the best mood and reassure them as much as you can.
NOTE – click here if you want to learn how to know if your dog is scared of you.
Tone of Voice
Emotion is one thing that dogs understand, but another thing is tone of voice.
So if you speak in a happy tone, your dog will pick up on this, making them happy.
But if you talk in an angry tone, your dog may feel sad or scared.
They might not even look at you if they think they did something wrong.
This is why you should only ever speak to your dog in an angry tone if they’ve genuinely done something wrong.
And once you’ve corrected their behavior, you can go back to being happy and approachable again!
Dogs don’t like upsetting their owners and getting into trouble, so listening to your angry tone of voice for a short period is certainly enough punishment.
NOTE – You might also like to read this post asking the question: why are huskies so vocal and loud?
There are specific movements and activities humans do that dogs sometimes understand (or at least pick up on).
- Running around. If you don’t usually run around the house, your dog will notice this movement change and will likely get up and follow you. However, if they don’t get up, it doesn’t mean they don’t notice your sudden fast movement.
- Grabbing keys. In many cases, grabbing keys (along with the accompanying jingling) indicates to your dog that you’re leaving the house. For many dogs, it means they’re about to go for a walk, and it causes excitement.
- Opening a kitchen cabinet. Sometimes, opening a kitchen cabinet indicates to a dog that you’re getting food. The dog will likely follow you and sit next to your feet if they sense you’re opening a cabinet for food.
- Hugging. If you hug someone in front of your dog, they might view this as a threat to you. If your dog senses this, they’ll start barking and may jump up on you or the other person. This sometimes also indicates jealousy but is harmless and playful in most cases.
NOTE – Click here if you would like to know the answer to the question: do dogs know their owner’s name?
Things That Dogs Don’t Understand
Now that you know more about some things that dogs understand, you might be wondering about the things that dogs don’t understand.
Sadly, there are many things that dogs don’t understand or can’t pick up on, but it certainly doesn’t mean their stupid!
Without further ado, let’s look at some of the things that dogs don’t understand:
This is probably the most obvious one, but it’s essential to discuss it briefly.
As you know, dogs don’t understand entire conversations.
To them, human speech is complete gibberish except for a few words like “sit” or “lie down.”
Even still, if you were to say a complete sentence and the word “sit” just happened to be in the sentence, your dog likely wouldn’t even notice.
That’s because your dog is used to you giving it the one-word command, so saying it in any other way will be confusing.
So any time you give or teach your dog a command, be sure to make it as simple as possible.
For example, instead of saying, “could you please lie down?” you should stick with “lie down.”
The former is too long and complicated for a dog’s brain, so using such a sentence is unnecessary.
NOTE – You might enjoy this post asking the question: how do dogs choose pick favorite person?
Commands That Sound Similar
Other things that dogs don’t understand are similar sounds and words.
For example, while humans can notice the difference between “paw,” “saw,” and “jaw,” a dog usually can’t.
So if your dog knows the paw command, you could say “jaw,” and they’ll assume you’re saying paw.
It’s the same with a dog’s name. For example, if your dog’s name is Bob, they might think you’re calling them if you say “Rob.”
These names can even sound similar to humans, so it’s no surprise that dogs think they sound the same!
NOTE – You might also enjoy reading this post asking the question: why do dogs show their teeth when they are feeling guilty?
Leaving the House
Another activity that dogs don’t understand is when their owner leaves the house.
This could be for work or any other activity. When it comes to a family, one of the teenagers might leave home to go to college.
This is another thing that a dog wouldn’t understand, and they may begin to wonder where the person is gone.
Because of their low brain capacity, dogs do not understand how society works (i.e., humans need to go to school, college, and work).
Dogs like to go places with their owner, so they can be confused when you leave the house without them every day.
That’s why it’s essential to give your dog as much love and affection as possible when you’re at home.
Bring them for walks, give them treats (in moderation), play with them, and cuddle.
After all, your dog may not be your entire world, but you are their whole world!
Change of Environment
Something else that dogs don’t understand is a change of environment.
Maybe you have to move or get the house renovated.
Or perhaps you’re bringing your dog on vacation.
Whatever it is, they don’t understand why this happens and will be a little confused in any situation that involves a change of environment.
Change of Appearance or Scent
A dog’s sense of smell is many times stronger than a human’s, so it’s no wonder they get confused when you change your perfume.
If you’ve had the same scent for a long time and suddenly change, your dog will be surprised and confused. But this confusion will eventually pass.
Another thing is a change of appearance.
For example, if you wear a type of clothing that you usually never wear, your dog will get confused and may not understand why you’re doing it.
Or, if you get a haircut that is entirely different from what you had before, your dog may get confused.
Understanding How a Dog Is Feeling
Since dogs don’t speak, it can be challenging to figure out how a dog is feeling.
When a child feels a certain way, they can say, “I’m feeling x,” and you can go from there. But with a dog, you need to look out for things like behavior and appetite, among others.
Now, let’s look at different ways to understand how a dog is feeling.
Keep Track of Their Regular Mood
The most important and helpful thing is to keep track of your dog’s regular mood.
This is the mood that your dog is in most of the time.
For some dogs, this might be an energetic mood.
For others, it might be more chilled and laid back. Once you understand your dog’s regular mood, it’s easier to notice any changes.
Watch Their Eating Habits
Most dogs have no problem eating once they’re hungry.
But if a dog is feeling ill or anxious, it may not want to eat. Instead of being able to tell you how they’re feeling, they’ll leave their food in their bowl instead.
So if you notice your dog has stopped eating all of a sudden, you can use that as an indication that something may be wrong.
Keep an Eye on Your Dog’s Body Language
Body language in humans is a great way to understand how someone feels, but it’s also a great way to know how a dog is feeling.
For example, if your dog’s head is hanging low and its tail isn’t wagging the way it usually does, this indicates that your dog is sad, ill, or stressed.
This video has some great examples of canine body language that you might find helpful to watch:
NOTE – You might also be interested to read this post asking – why are dogs so nice to humans?
Best Ways To Communicate With Your Dog
Although speech is one of the easiest and most effective methods of communication in humans (but not an effective method with dogs), there are plenty of ways to communicate with dogs. Some methods include playing and petting your dog or giving it affection.
Let’s look at some of the best ways to communicate with your dog in greater detail:
Playing is one of the best ways to communicate with your dog.
You’re showing them that you care and want to spend time with them while having fun at the same time.
Dogs need stimulation, so playing games is perfect in every way. For example, playing could include fetch or using dog toys.
Petting your pooch and giving them your time and affection is another excellent way to communicate.
Many dogs enjoy being petted because it makes them feel loved, relaxed, and safe.
Because of this, most domesticated dogs respond well to petting and other forms of affection.
Another helpful method of communication with dogs is using verbal commands.
Commands could include:
- Lie down
- Play dead
Although your dog can’t speak, it should have no problem understanding specific commands that you’ve taught them.
This is an excellent way to discipline and communicate with your dog easily!
Why Can’t Dogs Talk Like Humans? Final Notes
Dogs can’t talk because their brains aren’t as powerful as human brains.
While the human brain has many folds and layers, the dog brain does not. So although dogs can’t talk, they can understand specific basic commands like “sit” or “lie down.”
Dogs can also understand emotions and voice tones. So if you’re angry or happy (or anything in between), your dog will likely be receptive to this!
Since you can’t talk to your dog as an effective method of communication, you should try other things like playing, petting, and giving basic commands.
Tim is a proud, vetted, and experienced dog foster carer for a charity helping dog owners escape domestic abuse.
He has years of experience training and caring for dogs, both his own and other people’s.
He is an expert in canine behavior and is highly skilled in dealing with all dogs but specializes in the difficult ones that other people may struggle with.
When he isn’t fostering dogs, he is making friends with other people’s pups!