What are some of the more difficult words a dog can understand?

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A lot of people boast that their dog is so smart that her huge vocabulary includes some very big words.

But here’s the truth: Any dog can be taught any number of words. It’s really not so much the difficulty of the word, but the amount of time, patience and determination that the owner has in teaching the dog. But it is important to understand that the dog’s thought process and learning process isn’t the same as ours.

A dog’s understanding of people is greatly influenced by the cause and effect association. The stimulus will be associated by the dog to a response. For instance, a dog may love to ride in taxis. She sees one parked by the curb and tries to jump in—that’s only one part of the cause and effect stimulus. She knows her owner usually jumps into a taxi when it stops, and this taxi isn’t moving. Then there are other associations: Although dogs do have limited color vision, they can see the color yellow. She may also have recognized those little billboard signs on top of taxis. So she could have been responding to that. One thing for sure—she didn’t say to herself, “Oh boy! A taxi—let’s take a ride!”

Dogs also rely on repetition, body language, including hand gestures and eye movements, your tone and your behavior patterns. If they can make the association, they can learn the word.

Remember that it’s always best to keep commands as a single word (for instance, “sit,” rather than “please sit down), and the simpler the word structure, the better—don’t choose a word with a lot of syllables and a mixture of vowels and consonants.

For instance, if you want the dog off the sofa, say “down,” with a sweeping hand gesture toward the floor. That way, she’ll associate the words with the hand gesture, to figure out what you want. Otherwise, saying something like, “please get off the sofa,” will mean nothing to her.

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