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American dogs know 18 words, and "love" is at the top of the list

Dogs may be baffled by our slang and colloquial expressions, but their capacity to grasp human feelings and even parts of our language is remarkable. 

Those who love dogs realize that these furry companions offer more than just playing fetch and pleading for snacks. They have evolved into compassionate confidants and crucial contributors to the emotional health of their owners.

Recently, the language tutoring company Preply conducted a survey involving more than 1,000 dog owners in America to delve deeper into the interaction between humans and dogs, unveiling the complexities of their communication skills and ways of connecting with humans. 

Key insights from the survey 

  1. The typical American dog comprehends 18 words used by humans.
  2. For one in three owners, dogs are more emotionally attuned to them than their partners.
  3. 77 percent of those surveyed feel their dogs truly listen to them.
  4. Beyond basic commands, the word “love” tops the list of human words understood by dogs.
  5. Around one-third of owners note their dogs’ excitement during FaceTime calls.

Dogs recognizing human language 

The survey revealed that the average dog in America understands 18 words, a vocabulary extending beyond the usual commands. Interestingly, “love” and “happy” are among the recognized words, indicating dogs’ awareness of affectionate and positive terms. 

These findings add another layer to our comprehension of dogs’ cognitive abilities, suggesting that a profound emotional connection exists between dogs and humans. 

A substantial 66 percent of those surveyed perceive their dogs more as humans than pets, showcasing the familial status of dogs in households.

Top ten words

Here are the top 10 words that the dogs recognize (excluding widely used commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “outside” etc.):

  1. Love
  2. Car
  3. Cookie
  4. Bye-bye
  5. Baby
  6. Grandma
  7. Home 
  8. Ice cream
  9. TV
  10. Happy

Communication beyond words 

The essence of communication is deeply rooted in the desire for connection, which is evident in the interactions between dogs and their owners. 

The survey demonstrates that communication transcends words, fostering a deep emotional understanding, acknowledged by both dog owners and language enthusiasts.

Feeling understood by canine companions 

The study reveals that dogs serve as empathetic listeners, with nearly half of the owners conversing with their dogs multiple times daily. 

The frequency of these dialogues varies across genders and generations, but the outcome remains consistent – 77 percent of owners feel emotionally heard by their dogs. This indicates that dogs offer not just companionship but genuine emotional support.

Unparalleled emotional understanding

The emotional rapport between dogs and humans is clearly unique, with dogs often providing more comfort than human partners. 

A notable proportion of both male and female dog owners feel more understood by their dogs than their partners, emphasizing the extraordinary empathetic nature of our four-legged friends.

Shared interests and technological interaction

The survey also suggests that dogs are attuned to their owners’ interests and technological habits. 

A considerable number of dogs exhibit excitement during video calls and react positively to social media sounds, showcasing their connection to our emotional states and experiences, even in the digital realm.

Active participants in communication 

Thus, the relationship between humans and dogs is significantly influenced by both spoken and emotional language. 

Despite their inability to articulate human words or understand our colloquialisms, dogs respond to our emotions and expressions, proving they are active participants in communication rather than just passive recipients of our words. 

These findings shed new light on how communication extends beyond spoken language, and could be applied in better understanding how humans learn new languages and devising novel approaches to teach linguistic skills.

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