Do you remember the tv show “Lassie” (1954 – 1973)? Every week the charismatic collie would discover one of her human companions in a life-or-death struggle and she was the only one who could get help. But, no worries – this wonder dog would always save the day. She would race back to the family farmhouse, then she would bark and bark until one of the humans realized that there was trouble and they should follow her. The suspense of each episode rested mainly on the fact that Lassie couldn’t speak. She was incredibly smart. She could understand humans, but she could not speak.
Little did we know when we were cheering Lassie on that these same issues would become the subject of research. In fact, researchers in Hungary announced last week that domestic dogs understand much more than we thought they did. We have long known that pet dogs have many words that they recognize (such as “squirrel”, “treat”, or “go”) but it is also true that they understand concepts in somewhat the same way humans do. Previous research has shown that chimpanzees, gorillas, and dolphins may understand human speech beyond vocabulary, too.
Click on the links below to read more. For articles in our subscription databases, you may need to log in with your card number and PIN.
- The Bark
- Does Your Dog Know What You Are Thinking?
- The Secrets Inside Your Dog's Mind
- Your Dog Understands More than You Think
- Is Man's Best Friend a Spy?
- Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans Waal, W. W. Norton, 2016.
- Animal Wise, the Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures, by Virginia Morell, Random House, 2013.