A research study published in Applied Animal Behavior Science found that the average dog will respond to around 89 words, half of them being commands.

The researchers identified the most frequently understood words, as well as the factors that may play a role in a dog’s comprehension, such as breed and level of training.

Here’s a summary of the findings.

Words dogs most commonly respond to:

  • The dog’s name
  • Sit
  • Come
  • Good girl/good boy
  • Down
  • Stay
  • Wait
  • No
  • OK
  • Leave it

Many dogs in the study also responded to less common words and phrases like the names of family members and caregivers, other pets in the house, and commands like “wipe your paws.”

What are the variables that help determine how many words a dog understands? Not surprisingly, dogs that had some sort of specialized training and did some form of work had the highest vocabularies.

Owners of herding and toy dog breeds reported the highest numbers of words that their dogs responded to. Sporting/gun dog breeds were found to respond to the fewest number of words.

Other factors that influence a dog’s understanding include the dog’s participation in a sport, like agility or obedience training. The dogs of older owners responded to more words than those of younger owners. But the age of the dog has less impact than the owner’s age.

What kinds of words does your dog understand?



8 thoughts on “Study Finds Dogs Understand and Respond to an Average of 89 Words

  1. Everyone believes their dog understands more than the ‘average’ pet. I’ve been following “What About Bunny” on Instagram; now there’s a dog that understands scads of words! She’s just too clever and fun to watch as she taps out words on her ‘keyboard.’

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