Do Our Furry Friends Understand Us?

I come home after school everyday to find my dogs sitting next to the garage door. As soon as I open the door, they immediately knock me to the floor. Giving me kisses and love. My Golden Retriever, Buster, grabs his ball and drops it right in front of me, expecting me to play catch with him for the remainder of the evening. Unfortunately,  I have to tell him “Not now, boy,” and go upstairs to do my homework. He puts his head down and slowly walks away to lay on the floor. Does he understand what I am saying? Is he sad, or does he even have the capability to feel emotions? I decided to research the topic of dogs and their connection with humans in order to better understand my dogs.

I started by researching if dogs can understand what we people say to them. One study shows that an average dog can understand 165 words, such as sit, stay, leash, etc. This number is impressive considering most toddlers comprehend 200 words by the age of three. Another study, conducted by Jessica Beymer, says that dogs of deaf owners can even learn to understand hand signals as another language. According to the article in the Washington Post, Dogs process language using the same region of the brain as humans. In another study, in the same article, thirteen canines were tested in order to see if dogs understood words regardless of tone of voice or delivery. It was concluded that dogs are able to understand most words in context. So if my dogs can understand what I say, then can they experience a variety of emotions.

In order to understand if dogs can experience emotions and to what extent, I read an article, which explained what emotions dogs can feel through their life and what makes dogs able to feel them. It explained that dogs have the same hormones and undergo the same chemical changes that humans do during different emotional states. Dogs actually have more of the hormone oxytocin, which is involved in the feelings of love and appreciation. One graph shows a chart of emotions that dogs can experience. Although they do not have a wide variety of emotions, like adults, they can still get angry, happy, and sad. This shows me that dogs can not only understand what I am saying but they can react emotionally to it.

Lastly, I decided to research the impact dogs have on their owners. This relationship is shown in an article in the Times. The article demonstrates that owning a dog can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and even decrease the risk of asthma in children. Another study showed that dog owners are more active than non-dog owners, due to the fact that on average dog owners take 2,760 more steps. They are likely to be more active than individuals without dogs. Although there are countless benefits of owning a dog, most articles list happiness as the biggest benefit.

After reading these articles and learning more about dogs and their connections to humans it was very interesting to learn that people have a lot in common with dogs. After looking deeper, I found that humans and dogs share 84% of their DNA. For this reason, Dogs can be used in order to study and find treatments for retinal disease, cataracts, cancer, epilepsy, and more. Dogs play a pivotal role in our modern society. They can understand things we say and they can emotionally react. Not only that, but they also provide benefits to their owners and their health. It is hard to imagine our world without dogs. That being said, it will be hard for me to say “Not now, boy,” to my dogs ever again.


About Mr. Mohn

Biology Teacher

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