There are some dogs who struggle with’sit and lie down’ but a recent study found that canines comprehend an average of 89 words. 

Canadian researchers surveyed 165 dog owners about their understanding of the various words and phrases used by their dogs. 

Owners reported on average that their dogs could understand 89 words, but one dog who was particularly smart was able to grasp 215 terms. 

The majority of commands dogs respond to are command words, according to the authors. This includes classics like’sit, roll over, and ‘lie down.     

Nearly all dogs responded to the owner’s name. Most also answered commands such as’sit,’ come,’ ’down’ or’stay’. 

The researchers acknowledge that dogs will need to receive formal training to become able to communicate with humans in the way they want. 

Looking at dogs by breed, herding dogs including Australian Shepherd, Border Collie and German Shepherd, and toy-companion dogs including Bichon Frise, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the Chihuahua, were found to respond to more words and phrases than other breed types.  

'Sit!' It’s clear that the average domesticated dog understands at least a handful of words. The new research has quantified the size of the average dog’s vocabulary through a survey of owners (stock image)

‘Sit!’ It is clear that domestic dogs understand only a handful words. A survey was conducted with owners to determine the dog’s vocabulary (stock photo).

The new study was conducted by Catherine Reeve and Sophie Jacques, researchers at the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, Dalhousie University, Canada. 

“Due to their evolutionary history, and close interaction with humans, domestic canines have learned to respond at a level not comparable by any other species to human verbal or nonverbal cues,” they stated. 

“Their ability respond to communicative cues are critical to the many professional and familial roles that they play in our daily lives. 

According to owner reports, the responses of dogs vary in terms not only the amount but also the types of words they respond to.

“The results of the current research are consistent with other evidence suggesting that dogs might be more skilled at responding to commands than they are at object words. 


Keep an eye out



Reverse the process 

Wanna’ go home?

Get bye

Where’s [insert name of object]


Drink water



You want to take a ride with us?

Take a walk

Take a short walk.

Get pooped 



Are you hungry? 


For breakfast




You can get out of this [insert name of object]


Who’s that?

Go get your [name of toy]

No jumping

Enjoy your meal

You can’t eat! 

You are a true sweetie.




Go get it!

All done










Your love is my greatest joy!


Let go




Do you want dinner?


We are grateful!

You can’t eat!




Living room 

You can move

Secure Leash


The complete list is available here

Since 1928 scientists have tried to understand how dogs can comprehend the words of humans. 

C.J. Warden, and L.H. Warner recorded the response of Fellow, a young German Shepherd male, to his owner’s spoken commands.

Fellow responded appropriately to about 68 words, phrases and expressions, such as “go outside and wait” and then Fellow left the room, and went outside to the front door. 

In 1928, Warden and Warner documented the ability of Fellow, a young male German Shepherd, to respond to spoken commands by his owner. Fellow (pictured) understood between 300 and 400 words and has the intelligence of an eight-year-old boy, according to his master at the time, Jacob Herbert of Detroit

Warden and Warner, in 1928, documented Fellow’s response to his owners spoken commands. Fellow (pictured) understood between 300 and 400 words and has the intelligence of an eight-year-old boy, according to his master at the time, Jacob Herbert of Detroit


Dogs can ‘effortlessly’ learn the names of their toys, a 2021 study revealed – most likely if they’re a Border Collie.

In a sample of 40 dogs, seven were able to learn the names of their toys – like Turtle, Squirrel and Mickey Mouse – after three months of training. 

One of the dogs, a Border Collie, was able to recognise the names of 37 toys. 

Continue reading: Study finds that dogs can learn the names of toys ‘effortlessly’ 

It’s clear that the average domesticated dog understands at least a handful of words, but the researchers wanted to use a consistent methodology for a large number to work out the average.  

Researchers interviewed 165 owners of dogs of different breeds and ages and asked them to describe the words their dog could understand and respond to.

Participants were asked to respond to each sentence or word by indicating how their dog believed they responded.

Dog responses were defined as becoming excited, looking for someone or something, looking up, whining, running, wagging tail or performing the action requested (i.e. ‘sit!’). 

On a 5-point Likert scale, owners rated the dog’s response to each item on a five-point Likert type scale. 

The academics discovered that dog owners had reported their dogs responding to 15-to-215 words and phrases with an average of 89. 

If you look at breeds of dogs, it is clear that herding dogs (bred as cattle and sheep herders) and toy companion dogs (bred for human companionship and play) respond to more words and phrases. 

Australian Shepherd, Border Collie. Cardigan Welsh Corgi. German Shepherd. Miniature American Shepherd. Shetland Sheepdog.

Toy companion dogs include Bichon Frises, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Chihuahuas, and many poodle types. 

Others breeds were less adept than hounds: Whippets and Afghan Hounds; Working-Guardians (Bernese Mountain Dogs. Boxer. Cane Corso); Terrier (American Staffordshire. Manchester); Sporting-Guns. American Cocker Spaniel. English Setter. Golden Retriever.  

Looking at dogs by breed, herding dogs and toy-companion dogs responded to more words and phrases than other breed types. Toy-companion dogs, include the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (pictured)

When comparing dogs by breed, it was clear that herding and companion dogs were more responsive to words and phrases than any other types of dogs. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, one of the toy-companion breeds (pictured).

The team says that there may be differences between breeds in how dogs learn words, but more research is needed to establish if these differences exist among breeds or owners of different breeds.  

According to the researchers, dogs could learn to respond to certain words and phrases in a particular way without understanding their meaning. 

The study was also limited by the fact that it relied upon surveys from owners. Owners may have overestimated their pets’ response.  

The new research has been new research published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 


This bizarre device allows dogs to call their owner simply by picking up and shaking the ball when they are home. 

Devised at the University of Glasgow, the device, called ‘DogPhone’, is a toy ball containing an accelerometer – a device that detects motion of an object.

An accelerometer can sense movement to initiate a video chat on a laptop. Dogs are able to communicate with their owner even while at work by seeing and hearing them.

Dogs will initially be confused by the sight and sound of their owners when they shake DogPhone. But they will soon begin to see their owner as they touch it.

Over time, they’ll therefore learn to pick up and shake the ball when they’re missing their owner and want to see them – via the internet at least. 

DogPhone allows the human to also call their dog using the system. DogPhone rings to alert the dog when they respond.

However, the dog can ‘freely answer or ignore’ the calls by just ignoring them.

Read more: Weird device lets dogs call their owner by shaking a ball