An uncanny ability

Discussion in 'Dogs - General Dog Chat' started by Laurelin, May 1, 2013.

  1. Laurelin

    Laurelin I'm All Ears

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    This is mostly me just pondering out loud. Just a warning.

    I always wonder how much do dogs understand. Mia has this uncanny ability to seem to pick out words, names, and language. I mean... All dogs do. Beau is the king of knowing 101 ways people are saying they're going to let the dogs out. Mia is a step further and it makes me question just HOW MUCH can they understand.

    In one instance Mia learned the word mouse means small furry thing. Squirrel was a similar thing for her. You can hide her toys and tell her to go find the ball or the 'bunny' (tug) and she will search for it and bring it back. She will look a long time. She knows Summer's name and if I ask her to find Summer she will. Summer has shown no indication that she knows 'Mia' means Mia.

    I've done some naming sessions where I teach her a few objects. Something like pen, book, toy. Short session and she will go to each by name. I haven't tried more than a few at a time.

    Other instances... She's escaped the tub before and run into the living room and I tell her 'go get back in the tub' and she does. Or last night I told her to get on the couch and she did. I am sure a lot is just informal training. Things I taught her that I didn't intentionally mean to. Of course even summer does that but not to the same variety of things Mia does.

    Anyways just been thinking and wondering about dogs and language in particular. It seems incredible how much of it they can seem to understand. I just wonder how much they really do understand. Mia seems to have generalized 'where is' to mean she needs to look for something. She seems to know 'get on x' or 'go over there'. I think the most intriguing is that she seems to know 'Summer' means that other dog that lives here.

    I'm probably thinking too much lol.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2013
  2. Michiyo-Fir

    Michiyo-Fir New Member

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    I always wonder too.

    For example, there are 2 flights of stairs in my house. Nia knows go upstairs or go downstairs. So if we're at the top I can tell her to go downstairs twice and she'll end up at the very bottom. Whereas if we're in the middle, I can tell her to go upstairs or downstairs and she knows which one it is. I have no clue how she picked that up...

    She also knows a lot of dogs that are very close to her by name and my name and my mom's name so you can ask her to go find whoever and she will.

    Even things like if she has leftover food you can tell her to go finish her food and she goes...

    It amazes me a lot how much they understand us!
     
  3. milos_mommy

    milos_mommy Active Member

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    I've said it before, Mia sounds very, very, very much like Milo in so many aspects, particularly intelligence.

    It amazes me daily how many words and phrases he knows. Sometimes I wonder if it's more of body language and figuring out human habits than actual words, but I'm not sure. I didn't specifically teach him lots of words and phrases, and some - "walk" "outside" "leash" "food" "cookie" - etc. Are words plenty of dogs figure out.

    Milo knows the names of most of the rooms/areas of the house. "Basement", "upstairs", "the bedroom", "inside" (meaning out of the front area and into the back family room), etc. He knows the names of all our family members, Benji, and the cats. Some dogs respond when you put your shoes on...Milo knows if you say "Let me get my shoes on" before I go to do it.

    He'll back up if you ask him to, or move over if you ask him to...I never taught him those things, and he seemed to know them immediately upon coming home. I think it's just that he's really in-tune to body language, like if I tell him "scoot over", it's before I'm about to sit down, so he figures he might as well get out of my way? I don't know. He'll do it even if I'm not about to sit. Or "stay"...I guess maybe I tried to teach him a solid "stay" command, but now I can say any phrase along the lines of "stay here", "sit with me", "don't move", "stay on the couch", etc. and he will. I'm assuming it's just by tone/body language, etc.

    When I let him outside, if I want him to come right back inside, I say "go potty then come back" and he does, every time (barring some kind of SERIOUS temptation out there). If I don't say that, or even if I just say "go potty", he'll go outside and stay there and play until I want him back inside.

    He's also really, really focused on people and what they say. He's looking at my face 99% of the time I'm talking to him, usually cocking his head, obviously trying to understand. He's very focused on me and very (unhealthily) attached to me. I think that has a lot to do with it.

    The other dogs I have lived with certainly haven't been that capable of understanding human language (or body language) without explicit teaching, and it's hard to tell if the other dogs I've worked with might be that way with their owners.
     
  4. Laurelin

    Laurelin I'm All Ears

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    Bernard is really cute running up and down the stairs at my sister's place.

    I do wonder how much is that Mia is a pretty hyper aware kind of dog- in good ways and bad ways. She is definitely much more attuned to me than Summer or any other dog I've had to the point our trainers have mentioned it that she reads me a lot better. I think it's a mutual thing though. I think I also read her a lot better too.

    It's interesting and makes me think. Almost every day there is something I say that Mia reacts to in jut the right way that makes me wonder how much she does pick up and understand. I think so many people underestimate canine intelligence.
     
  5. Shai

    Shai & the Muttly Crew

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    I just want to renew my first dibs on Mia if you ever get tired of her ;)
     
  6. sassafras

    sassafras mushinois

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    I chatter to my dogs a lot. And I do think that they pick up certain phrases just due to context and repetition. All of my present and past dogs have had phrases they clearly responded to appropriately despite never having specifically been taught those phrases as commands or cues.

    ETA: Some dogs more than others, I do think different individuals pick stuff up more easily. My old Roxy was the best at it. Pip and Squash are better than Maisy is.
     
  7. Laurelin

    Laurelin I'm All Ears

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    See? I told that other forum that Mia would be rehomable even if she's a brat.

    I do think all dogs pick up on things for sure. Even my terribly non observant Summer does but to a lesser extent than Mia does. Maybe it's because I talk so much to my dogs. I blabber a lot.

    I just think its all kind of amazing. I had someone once say dogs didn't understand names. But really what is there to understand about names other than this sound refers to this thing/person. I just think people underestimate them.
     
  8. k9krazee

    k9krazee Active Member

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    I find it absolutely amazing that Crossbone is learning phrases, words and the things we do rapidly. Seems like he's been here & known us his whole life and not just 5 months!
     
  9. Beanie

    Beanie Clicker Cult Coordinator

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    I think it's one of those things where, if you talk to your dog in plain English like they will understand you, they... learn to understand you LOL.

    Kota used to understand "Kota, come play with your brother" for whenever Happy was bothering us. He would sigh and get up and come over and start playing with Happy hahaha. Auggie knows a lot of phrases that if I thought about it would be weird, but like I said, I talk to him like he understands English so it's not weird unless I think about it. XD
     
  10. Cali Mae

    Cali Mae Little dog, big voice

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    I wonder that too... mainly since Cali does seem to "know" the meaning of certain phrases and actions.

    "Cali, I think mom is home!" prompts an immediate full blown running to the house with the occasional check to see if I am following.

    Walking towards the door with a ball prompts her running to the door and nudging at her long line.

    That's only a few examples, I always just find some of the things she does amusing and somewhat interesting. Chaz might just have some abnormally smart (whether or not it's a good thing :p) dogs. Even at twelve, Moses has a relatively limited vocabulary although that might be due to the difference in training, etc... he is great with hand signals though.
     
  11. Laurelin

    Laurelin I'm All Ears

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    That's a really interesting point! Summer, who does not have as large a vocabulary and doesn't seem to 'get' nouns/names, also relies much more heavily on hand signals. Ex: spin vs dance. After months and years of those tricks Summer still needs a hand signal to go along with the word. Mia picks up on straight verbal cues just as fast as hand signals. Now in agility where there is a mixture of body language and words (but mostly body language) they both pick things up at a similar fast pace. But in the absence of body language to go along with a cue there is a distinct difference in level of understanding.
     
  12. Maxy24

    Maxy24 Active Member

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    I think a lot of it depends on how much you talk to your dog. My aunt and uncles dog can pick out all of her toys by name. Part of it is intelligence, she's the smartest dog I personally know, but her owners have also named all of the toys and use the names throughout play time. "Wanna play with piggy, where's piggy, let's get piggy, there's piggy, get piggy, etc." When I play with Tucker I growl and might say the occasional "gimme that" or "puuuuuull" but nothing that would turn into a cue. I'm just not talkative enough. Any cue I teach him is something I conciously tried to. Like during tug "get it" means he can grab the toy now (after a leave it or other command) but I conciously taught it. When we are outside and I want to go in I taught him "go on in", but it wasn't something I normally said, I said it on purpose so he'd catch on to it. So it's not really his fault that he doesn't have a big vocab, it's mine.

    Mom's taught him a few things unintentionally, like he knows "daddy's home" and "Erin's coming home".
     
  13. Shai

    Shai & the Muttly Crew

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    Just tell all the doubters that Shai(na) would take her. But then most of them would say, "Who?" and you'd be right back at square one ;)

    But yeah it just depends. Webster and Kim are more verbally oriented especially Kim. She knows my name means me, hubby's name means him, Webster, and Mira. We never trained it she is just a thinker and she pays attention to stuff like that. All three respond to a broad range of full sentences appropriately. Everything from "Watch your head!" when closing the car hatch to "Is it time to go feed the bunnies?" and they run to my green bucket and wait to see which door I choose. But Kim is definitely the most uncanny in that regard. Webster is creepy smart but he's kinda got him own agenda going lol. And Mira is, I think, the least prone to verbal cognitive leaps but she compensates by being the most in tune with my body language and tone. She is sort of obsessed with what I am doing or might do next and a couple years of relentless observation has made her almost creepily good at leading the way to my next activity even if I don't say anything at all. She seems to know when I'm leaving the office for a glass of water and coming right back vs. heading off to take a shower vs. going outside...even though I'm walking quietly out of my office wearing socks and empty-handed either way.
     
  14. JacksonsMom

    JacksonsMom Active Member

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    I talk in full sentences to Jackson all the time. Kind of like you would a toddler. He is very smart and picks up on many things. I actually have to be careful, like if I'm on the phone and say something that triggers something else, he hears me. Let's say I'm talking to my step-dad and say "oh, yeah, my mom is on her way home"... I guess he hears "mom" and "home" and he runs to the door, LOL. I find myself spelling things out a lot.

    I also explain everything we're going to do. When we're learning a new trick, I'll be like "No, I don't want you to do that" in a patient voice and "this is what I want you to do" and I'll often show him, and then he gets it.

    If we're in one room, the whole family, I can say "go get daddy" (without pointing) and he goes right to my step-dad, and "go get mommy" and "go get Emma" etc and he knows each person individually. Funny thing is, though, he knows my real dad as 'daddy' too but since they're in different houses and never together, I guess he differentiates enough.



    It's really amazing really. I love trying to understand how a dogs mind works.
     
  15. JacksonsMom

    JacksonsMom Active Member

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    The odd thing is, even though Jackson is good at understanding me when I'm talking to him, etc... as far as tricks goes, he relies heavily on hand signals. I guess I always just emphasized those more than verbal cues. The only ones he does with solely verbal is sit, down, stay and roll over oddly enough.
     
  16. DenoLo

    DenoLo New Member

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    Lo isn't very verbal at all. She knows a few words, but she actually relies more on the tone than the actual words. She knows the word "home", but only if I say it in my "talking to dog" tone of voice.

    For tricks, she actually gets really really frustrated when I don't use hand signals. It kind of cracks me up actually and results in some funny noises. It's so funny that you can say the same word in the same tone for years, but don't put a hand signal and she's all "I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT FROM ME"

    [YOUTUBE]ZLS6QNSfZWw&list[/YOUTUBE]
     
  17. Cali Mae

    Cali Mae Little dog, big voice

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    This applies to Cali as well, although I feel as though hand signals are more my way of giving her one less excuse not to listen. :p I can do the hand signal and say the wrong word and she'll do the trick. I once accidentally said "twitter" instead of "twirl" and she still twirled... although they do sound similar, and I still don't know how I messed it up. I try to always use the hand signals to differentiate her twirl and spin tricks but she's associated each word with the particular direction.
     
  18. Whisper

    Whisper Kaleidoscopic Eye

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    My dogs know a lot of words. I talk to them all the time and they've picked up a great deal.
    I'm also a crappy trainer sometimes with my wording. Over and over I've read you're supposed to give clear commands that are easy to discern, but instead of saying a simple "leave it" to Fable, often I'm like, "Fable, leave that alone and stop bugging Millie. Now go chill out." And she does.
    Millie picks up everything. By the time she was a 4 months old I would put a backpack on her or give her a note to hold and tell her to take it to my mom (keep in mind I was 10 ;)), which she did every time, even when my mom was in different places. She'd even wait outside a closed door for my mom to come out.
    Millie is more in tune to body language, though. Seeing as she's been my SD for a long time and knows when I need help with my invisible disability, that's not surprising.
    Everyone gets excited when I mention "treat," so I tried the whole spelling "T-R-E-A-T" thing, but they know what that means now, too. :p

    I think dogs are much more intelligent, much more emotionally aware, and much more intuitive than even many true dog lovers give them credit for.
     
  19. frostfell

    frostfell Kung Pow Fish

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    I think its more body language that theyre reading, than words they understand. Stand in the middle of the stairs, face away from the dog, fold your arms, look upward, and say in a monotone "go upstairs", and see if the reaction is the same

    Dogs are MASTERS, Jedi Knights, at reading body language and inflection

    Words are mostly babble when not connected to the all-important posture, intonation, gestures, etc
     
  20. Flyinsbt

    Flyinsbt New Member

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    Pirate knows "where is" too, and I find it really intriguing. He usually brings his beloved Chuck-it ball to bed, so if I go to bed and he's getting in my way, I ask him "Where's your ball?", and he takes off to find it. When we're out hiking, if Tess vanishes, I ask Pirate "Where is your mom?", and he'll run off and find her. (sometimes he can chase her back, sometimes not, but he always seems to be able to find her)

    I'm not sure he knows the nouns when I send him to find something, I think most likely, he just goes to look for the thing he thinks I'm most likely to be asking about. But he certainly recognizes the action.
     

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