Do dogs understand what you say? |

Do dogs understand what you say?

Lily is a three-year-old female border collie/Lab mix who would love a home with no cats but she does love other dogs.

I’m sure that my husband sometimes wonders about me because occasionally he’ll ask, “Who are you talking to?” “Watson,” I answer. Yes, I talk to Watson as if he were a person. So that led me to the question: Do dogs understand language?

I certainly didn’t have to look far for my answer because in the September/October issue of Psychology Today there was an article titled “Conversing with Canines,” by Stanley Coren, Ph.D.

Coren has developed an assessment for dogs that is based on tests used to evaluate language ability in very young children. It incorporates both words and gestures.

The results led Coren to conclude that the average dog can learn to recognize 165 words and gestures. Dogs in the top 20 percent of canine intelligence can learn 250 or more.

So far the most advanced dog is a border collie named Chaser. Amazingly, Chaser knows 1,000 words.

The evidence suggests that humans aren’t the only ones who possess language ability. Based on test scores, a mental age was assigned to represent a dog’s cognitive ability. Average dogs have a mental ability compared to a child’s at age two. A super dog like Chaser is similar to a 3-year-old child.

His findings offer new insights to dogs and their thought processes. If a problem can’t be solved by a 2- or 3-year-old child, your dog won’t be able to solve it, either. That extends to training, too. If a technique used with your toddler didn’t work, it won’t work for your dog, either.

Gosh, I feel great talking to Watson because I know he understands. There was never any doubt he understood food, but sometimes he ignores me like a 2-year-old.


Folks to register in the AmazonSmile program, a website operated by Amazon. Customers enjoy many of the same selection of products, low prices, and shopping features as on The only difference is that, when you shop on AmazonSmile (, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5 percent of the price of eligible purchases to the charitable organization selected by you. We have already raised over $300.

Volunteers to walk dogs or play with cats. Call 775-423-7500 for details.

Aluminum cans, which we recycle to augment our shelter funds. We are unable to pick up cans because of trailer problems, but please continue to save them.


Brenda Singletary for adopting Nala. We received a very moving email telling us how much Brenda’s family loves her. Nala fortunately is already spoiled and is learning how to bring Brenda her cane. A Four Paws Salute to you and your family. You have made Nala’s dream come true: a happy-ever-after home.


CAPS will be at Walmart Nov. 18 with the Kissin’ Booth and a puckered-up pooch. Come by to get your pooch smooch. We also have caps, shirts, and mugs so be sure to check out the merchandise after you have loved on our pup.


November Pet Holidays:

Adopt a Senior Pet Month (ASPCA)

Flower Tree Nursery will be raffling a 20-gallon blue spruce tree on Dec. 16, and the winner doesn’t have to be present to win. The raffle tickets are available at Flower Tree, and they are $1 for one ticket and $5 for six tickets.


CAPS’ mailing address is P.O. Box 5128, Fallon, NV 89407. CAPS’ phone number is 775-423-7500. CAPS’ email address is Please visit the CAPS website ( and Facebook page (Churchill Animal Protection Society). Be sure to “Like” CAPS on Facebook because we are really likable. CAPS is open to the public on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Do you have questions, comments or a great story? Contact me

Kathleen Williams-Miller, a CAPS volunteer, contributed this week’s column.