We all believe our dog is intelligent but have we really given them enough credit for just how smart they are? It turns out our dogs know a lot more about us than we realize. Here’s a list of 16 things your dog knows about you:
1. I know when you’re going out of town.
If you’re anything like me, you hate leaving your dog for a vacation or even one night at a friend’s house, but trust me, your dog hates it too.
They dread your departure so much that they’ve learned the signs of when you’re about to go – such as pulling out your suitcase. Dogs will associate this action with the next action they know, which is usually you leaving them for an extended period of time (they learn very well through association).
This is why you’ll see your dog’s behaviour change when you’re packing up, as they slink into the corner in a mild depression, getting ready for your imminent departure.
Don't want to leave your dog at home? Dogtipper.com offers tons of great content on doggie travel tips to help you prepare!
Otherwise, give them lots of love and tell them you’ll be home soon (they can understand what you’re saying, I swear...keep reading for proof).
2. I speak your language.
The American Psychological Association wrote about leading canine researcher, Stanley Coren’s study stating that dogs have an intelligence level of a 2-year-old human. Coren said, “the average dog can learn 165 words, including signals, and the ‘super dogs’ (those in the top 20 percent of dog intelligence) can learn 250 words.” This means that your dog can understand a lot more than we give them credit for!
I’m sure some of you are sitting at home wondering why your dog doesn’t always respond to you considering how much they understand. Dogs are just like humans and sometimes they simply don’t want to listen – especially older dogs who have earned the right to have selective hearing (if ya know what I mean).
Beyond the occasional 'selective hearing', your dog may need some proper training. For some good pointers on where to start, check out Little Dog Tips' post, "How to Get Your Dog to Pay Attention to You Outside".
3. I can smell when you’re sick.
As we all know, dogs have a more heightened sense of smell than humans (anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 times more heightened to be exact – depending on the breed), but what exactly are they smelling when they sense our health is in trouble?
Many researchers believe they’re smelling Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that are being generated from our ill bodies. According to Animal Planet, there was a study done in Japan in 2011 where dogs sniffed the breath samples from humans that had colorectal cancer to see if they could detect the disease. This study resulted in an astonishing 98% accuracy rate in detecting the diseased patients.
Various other studies have shown that dogs have been similarly successful in detecting other types of diseases in humans. Who knew the best detection for cancer was man’s best friend.
4. I know when you’re playing favourites!
It’s no secret that humans can sense inequality but studies show dogs are able to sense and react to that same emotion.
Friederike Range from Austria conducted a study where two dogs were instructed to “give their paw”, to which they happily obliged, until the researcher began rewarding only one dog while the other was left unrewarded. The dog that was not rewarded quickly recognized it was being treated unfairly and eventually stopped responding to the command.
NPR.org said, “Dogs have an intuitive understanding of fair play and become resentful if they feel that another dog is getting a better deal.”
5. I know when you’re cheating on me!
Much like the idea above that dogs can feel unfairness, they can also feel jealousy. Many dog owners have gone through the experience of bringing a new member into the family, such as a baby or boyfriend/girlfriend and noticed the changes in their dog.
When your dog is used to being the one and only important being in your life, it can be difficult for them to feel that they have to share their time with you.
Their feelings of jealousy can make them act out in aggression or other behavioural changes. Dogthusiast.com gives lots of insight on dealing with these behaviour problems - learn more from them if you're experiencing this with your pooch.
My two cents (I'm no professional) is to be sure to show your dog they’re still important to you and try to encourage group bonding to assure them these changes mean more love and attention, not less.
6. I know when you’re not looking and how to take advantage of it.
For the most part, dogs will do anything they can to keep their owner happy, but much like the old saying “we’re only human”, the same goes for dogs.
Your dog is so intent on keeping you happy that they would never hop up on the table and sneak some treats…while you’re looking.
According to many sources, “Researchers tested the willpower of several dogs by setting treats down in front of them and then forbidding the dogs to approach the food. As soon as the researchers left the room, every one of the dogs inhaled the food in an instant.”
So, in case you don’t already have them, it’s time to gets eyes on the back of your head!
7. I know when you’re letting me get my way.Just like kids, dogs will always try to push their boundaries. They’re constantly testing situations to see where they fall in the hierarchy pyramid.
As much as we love our dogs and often have a hard time saying no, it’s imperative that you stick to your rules and let them know who’s boss. If you don’t, it will result in…well…a bratty, spoiled dog.
They’ll believe they’re the alpha and have no problem taking advantage of their new-found freedom (much like some kids I know).
8. I can tell when you’re pregnant.
We already learned that dogs can sniff out when you’re sick, so why wouldn’t they be able to sniff out when you’re expecting?
Technically there is no scientific proof behind this one, but numerous pregnant women have recounted their stories of behavioural changes in their dog during pregnancy.
Many believe they can smell the hormonal changes in your body and as a result they become very protective – nuzzling up to the baby bump, escorting the woman everywhere she goes, and more – as if they’re protecting their own little ones.
The loyalty of a dog never ceases to amaze me!
9. I can tell when you’re feeling blue and I want to help.
If you’re a dog owner, you probably won’t even need the proof for this one but just for the novelty of it, I’ll explain.
According to the journal Animal Cognition (as reported by Live Science), studies were conducted to prove this theory by testing the reaction of dogs observing humans that were crying, humming and talking. The results showed that dogs were more likely to approach the people that were crying.
Psychologist Deborah Custance who was one of the researchers said, "The fact that the dogs differentiated between crying and humming indicates that their response to crying was not purely driven by curiosity. Rather, the crying carried greater emotional meaning for the dogs and provoked a stronger overall response than either humming or talking."
So, as much as we already knew this, our favourite creatures really do comfort us when we need it the most.
For more amazing stories, Modern Dog Magazine has a whole "Inspire" section on their website, with beautiful stories on the true power and impact of dogs' love and loyalty.
10. I know when you’re being rude and I’m not impressed.
This strikes me as a pretty interesting point because it shows how advanced a dog’s emotional capabilities really are.
A study showed that a group of dogs who observed other people being rude to their owners actually resulted in the dogs negatively evaluating that person who mistreated their owner.
There really isn’t much else to say other than, simply put, be kind to one another – at least for the sake of your pooch!
11. I know when we’re going to the vet – please don’t make me!
Many dog owners will agree with this one. We never know exactly why, but for some reason our pooches can always tell the difference between a car ride going to the vet versus driving to the trails for a nice afternoon hike. Well, I’m sorry to say this, but it’s actually your fault.
Dogs can read body language so well that they know when you’re loading them in the car for the dreaded vet trip because they read the signs you’re showing them.
It’s hard for you to hide this, but easy enough to get them used to the vet by taking them there with a more pleasant visit in mind (rather than the usual uncomfortable shots or tests). This way they can get used to the vet’s environment and feel more comfortable on future visits.
If you're curious about some minor pet health questions and would like to skip the vet visit, Pawsitively Pets has loads of info on both physical and mental pet health topics (and it's legit because it was started by a former veterinary technician, Ann Staub).
12. I know if you’re a good soul because I’m a good soul.
Many of us believe our dog is the best indicator to detect good people from bad people, and as it turns out, that’s actually true.
Kind-hearted, good people actually give off an aura of good energy, which our dogs can read. This aura is due to the fact that “the heart, like the brain, generates a powerful electromagnetic field”, as explained by McCraty in The Energetic Heart. Dogs can sense this magnetic field which is why they’re drawn to people with better energy, or good souls.
I will forever trust my dog’s instincts!
13. I can tell when you’re in love (or not).
Even though dogs get jealous, as explained above, they can also sense when you love that person that’s making them jealous (or when you don’t).
As we all know, the feeling of love is a series of chemicals released in our bodies, known as dopamine and serotonin.
A different set of chemicals is released when you feel hatred or resentment towards someone and your dog can sense that too!
Be careful – if they know you don’t like someone, they may try to protect you from them which could result in some bad behavioural changes in your pooch.
14. I know a generous person when I meet them.
You caught me, there’s a theme here – dogs are very emotionally in tune with humans (and other animals). That being said, it comes as no surprise that they can tell when you’re being generous and when you’re being stingy.
A study was done by the University of Milan where dogs observed two sets of people in an eerily real-world situation. One group gave a homeless person food generously, while the other group aggressively responded to the homeless person, telling him to leave.
After the dogs observed this, both groups of people called them over at the same time, however the majority of the dogs only responded to the generous group of people.
The lesson here is pretty obvious – treat people well – for the love of your dog and others.
15. I know where you were today!
A dog’s sense of smell is much more powerful than us humans (as I mentioned earlier), which makes it very easy for your dog to keep tabs on you!
We pick up VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) on our clothes, hands, and everywhere else, that our dogs can easily sniff out. This means they know when we’ve been to the grocery store, gone for a walk without them, and especially when we’ve visited a friend who has a pooch of their own.
It’s good to let your dog sniff these wonderful smells when you come home as it helps them stay familiar with our ever-changing scents.
16. I know your schedule – don’t be late!
Ever wonder how your dog knows everyday when you’ll be home? It’s probably not because they’re sitting at the door waiting for you all day, but because dogs are great associative learner’s.
Matt Shipman from NC State University said, “A dog can learn to recognize the sound of a specific car and anticipate the arrival of the person associated with that car (such as the dog’s owner).”
Shipman further explains, “if you take the subway and usually get home at 5:30, the dog may be triggered by the local bus that drives by every day at 5:25.”
As much as I’d like to think my dog is psychic, it seems he’s simply outsmarted me…again.