It can feel strange to communicate with dogs as we do with humans. They’re our companions, their presence is comforting, and it seems like they understand us. But do dogs really understand us or do we just want to believe they do?

Up until recently there was no scientific evidence corroborating this skill. Nevertheless, nowadays several studies prove what dog owners have been claiming for a long time: dogs can understand us (sometimes even better than people).

A study by the University of Florida identified social behaviour in dogs very similar to that of humans, like, for instance, responding to human body language. According to this study dogs behave in accordance to our attention, they follow our movements and observe us awaiting approval for their actions.

Dogs understand what we say and how we say it.

Humans have what we call “speech area” in our brains, that gives us information about the people we know and appreciate. Recent research has shown that dogs also have these speech areas capable of reacting to other dogs’ voices as well as the emotional subtext in human speech, that is, whether a person is happy, angry, etc. That allows them to process human voices, and consequently, react to what we say.

Researchers affirm that this may explain why dogs understand their owners so well, establishing a truly unique connection.

Dogs can tell the difference between an angry and a happy face.

Other studies have focused in dogs’ capacity to differentiate between happy and angry facial expressions. According to a study from the Messerli Institute, in the Veterinarian Medicine university of Vienna, dogs can associate a happy face with something positive and an angry one with something negative.
It is surprising that they can apply this polarity to not only people they are familiar with, but also with people they have just met. That way, the happy-good and angry-bad associations allow them to create a pattern to interpret expressions on species different to their own, including those of unknown individuals.

This makes dogs very special beings, who are always there, understand us, and cheer us up when we need it. Best of all, is that their capacity to empathise is not limited to their owners or close people. Dogs are so sensitive to human emotions that they can identify those of people they don’t know, and thus, have never had the chance to previously analyse.

From now onwards, we can confidently say, with scientific backing, that our dogs understand how we feel. Because they really do.

For your interest

How much water do dogs need a day?

Many dogs seem to drink a lot of water each day. Cells and organs in the body contain about 70% water, making it the main body component.

How does heat affect dogs and cause heatstroke?

Dogs get overheated more easily than people and this can quickly lead to physical distress known as heat stroke (hyperthermia).