Our canine friends understand and can communicate with us in ways no other animals do. Dogs can understand human gestures and give signals when they want or need something, even when young. In fact, according to a February, 2011 research report by Juliane Kaminski, Ph.D., a cognitive psychologist currently with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, dogs are actually smarter at communicating with people then chimpanzees, even when chimps are raised as if they were human! Dogs are actually the only animals that can read human gestures and feelings, and can communicate with us.

Is this dog able to read your emotions? Scientist say they can, and they do it well. Credit: Destiny McCauley.

Dogs may even be born with this inherent gift, since 6-week-old puppies with no major training possess it”, said Kaminski. “Dogs give us weird faces that make us think they know how we feel. That’s why pets always sit in your lap or try to lick you when you’re sad, mad or happy. Our emotions trigger their minds; they know what our emotions are before we can tell anyone at all.”

“Dogs more or less use humans as social tools requesting things for mainly selfish reasons,” said Kaminski in an email response. “We believe, based on several pieces of evidence, that dogs are especially selected to pay attention to human forms of communication.”

Kaminski cited as pieces of evidence that dogs are outstanding in the animal kingdom in how they use human forms of communication, such as human gestures. Dogs also don’t seem to need to learn much to do this; there seems to be a certain readiness to pay attention to human gestures form early on. Finally, not even dog's closest living relative, the wolf, when raised under identical conditions as dogs, has the same flexibility with human gestures. Wolves can learn to follow human gestures, but are not be as flexible as dogs in understanding the gestures.

All of this taken together suggests that dogs are especially adapted to life with humans, says Kaminski. Dogs have adapted to where most likely it was important for them to be sensitive to certain human gestures to be used for things like hunting and herding.

“We therefore need to study in more detail the mechanisms behind dogs understanding of human forms of communication,” wrote Kaminski. “ Dogs understand us better because they have the size of a two year old human brain, but as they get older their brain grows just like ours do. They learn things just like we do; therefore dogs do understand us best." 

Animal stories

According to a survey at Farnsley Middle School, 82 out of 118 people have a household pet, and all of the students said “yes” to the question “does your dog give signs about wanting or needing something.” Christine Grasch, a sixth grade teacher at Farnsley Middle School,  says that “My cat smacks me in the face with its paw when it gets hungry.” On the other hand, the computer lab/robotics teacher, Linda Collins, has a dog and that she says, “My dog softly barks in my ear when it needs to go to the bathroom.” Korey Holcomb’s dog wags his tail when he’s happy; LaVonte Watts says his dog barks, his ears stick up and his tail stops wagging when he’s mad. Last but not least, Kyndall Overall says her dog squeaks noises when she gets jealous of another dog.           

”Domesticated felines also pay attention to us and can understand human pointing gestures, said Kaminski. However, she mentioned that “the researchers had to select them out of many hundreds of cat, suggesting that only certain house kittens are on par with dogs when it comes to understanding people.”

Abby Kessinger & Destiny McCauley

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  1. good article. i really love dogs so once i seen the title i had to read it. i glad to know that my dogs DO understand me and i’m not just wasting my breath telling them what to do. glad i read this, keep up the good work. :good

  2. im glad i know that my dog do understand me bcause he be looking at me like he do understand me . this was a great article and i enjoyed reading this article.

  3. I believe that dogs really understand us. My grandma had a stroke but didn’t know. Her dog kept jumping on her and barking, then she lost feelings in her hands. She went to the hospital and found out. She told me that’s why her dog was jumping on her.

  4. :smile
    I agree with you. Dogs are the best things on earth when it comes to something to communicate with. they may not be able to talk back to you but they response in a way of comfort. :good