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How many words do dogs know?


Do you feel like your dog understands you when you talk to them? Odds are, your four-legged friend is actually picking up a respectable chunk of your conversation because researchers have estimated that a dog’s intelligence is roughly equivalent to that of a human toddler. 

Dogs can learn words and behaviors, read body language and facial expressions and even interpret our emotions. An average dog vocabulary includes about 150 to 200 words, but with training dogs have been documented to understand more than 1,000 words!

How to teach your dog new words. Want to build your dog’s vocabulary? It’s actually not too difficult to do. The key is repetition and consistency. 

When teaching your dog a new word, make sure you choose one specific word for each action or object and stick with it. For example, your dog may get confused if you say the word “toy” because this term can apply to many different objects. But if you get more specific, using words like “ball” or “bone” consistently, your dog will learn to associate the word with that specific toy.

Speed it up with positive reinforcement! Another trick to expand your dog’s vocabulary is to use positive reinforcement training to help your dog learn new words quickly. Positive reinforcement is a training method in which desirable behaviors are rewarded, so your dog will want to perform them again and again. 

You can easily apply this concept to your dog’s vocabulary by rewarding them with something positive—like a treat, praise or a favorite toy—every time your dog correctly responds to a word. For example, if you say the word “ball” and your dog runs to grab a tennis ball, you can reinforce this behavior with a treat or some petting to let your dog know they have responded correctly. If you do this consistently, your dog will soon respond to dozens of new words!

Want to teach your dog other neat tricks? 

Visit AskVCA, where our dog and cat behavior experts share great ways to nurture your pet’s genius >>