Researchers say Chihuahuas can understand words including water, park, cat, and gentle. To be exact, it means they know up to 215 words in total.

Scientists 51 dogs to see whether the animals show some elements of the theory of mind - the ability to recognise intentions in others

A question that has been pondered by dog owners since the animals were first domesticated: Does my pet understand me? According to a new study, they are capable of comprehending more than many might think.

Canadian researchers who studied 165 dogs and their owners found that the animals responded to between 15 and 215 words and phrases.

Two black and white puppies working as a team to carry rope - Stock image
Image: On average dogs were reported to understand 89 words and phrases

On average, the pets in the study could understand 89 words. This is the same number as an 18-month-old baby.

Researchers Catherine Reeve and Sophie Jacques linked the animals’ capacity to learn to their close relationship with humans.

“Due to their evolutionary history and close association with humans, domestic dogs have learned to respond to human verbal and nonverbal cues at a level unmatched by other species,” they said.

The study concluded that dogs were particularly strong at responding to commands, as opposed to object words.

Almost all dogs responded to their own name and basic commands. These included come, down, stay, wait, no, okay and leave it.

two scared or afraid puppy dogs wrapped with a curtain.
Image: Our ability to communicate with canines has been linked to humans’ close relationship with the animals as they evolved

The Cute Cues on the 215 Words

Most of the dogs would wag their tails when hearing treat-seeking phrases like “good girl” or “good boy”. Meanwhile, only a small minority would respond to less common commands such as “whisper” or “loud”.

The study released a list of words that dogs tend to respond to more often.

It includes a number of phrases most of us might expect. These are “watch” and “sit” – alongside a few more surprising examples. The other ones include “vacuum”, “lake” and “peanut butter”.

“Dogs seem to vary greatly not only in the number but also in the kinds of words to which they purportedly respond,” said the researchers.

And, the researchers did acknowledge that the animals may have simply learned to respond correctly to the words and commands they hear. This doesn’t mean that they understand what they mean, though.

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