We are all aware that we communicate with our dogs, maybe in the form of giving general commands like sit, or get down, or when we’re signalling for something like dinner time, or walkies! But have you ever noticed whether you talk to your dog?
You may begin to notice it more and more often now that it’s been brought to your attention but you probably have more conversations with your dog than you actually realise. Many people like to narrate events to their dog when they are out on their daily walk, describing what they see, in a similar way as you might do with a toddler. People use language to praise their dogs or ask them rhetorical questions. People even talk to dogs to make social interactions with other humans easier, such as asking questions aimed at the dog designed to enable the owner to answer and trigger a conversation, like when we kneel down to ask a dog what their name is.
There have been many studies that show that talking to your dog isn’t in fact a sign of madness, but can actually be extremely beneficial for both you and your dog. Not only does consistent interaction strengthen your bond, but it can also have positive effects on your mental health too. Some therapists recommend talking to your pets regularly as it gives you an opportunity to voice your concerns out loud to a non-judgemental audience and helps you to make sense of how you feel. You can happily vent your frustrations to your dog safe in the knowledge that there won’t be any negative consequences.
However, don’t let the conversation be too one-sided as it were. Although your dog can’t communicate back, a study by researchers at the University of York have shown that dogs are more likely to show interest and stay engaged when speech involves words that are relevant to dogs.
It’s no secret that dogs are intelligent creatures but they probably understand a lot more than we think. As well as being able to learn the obvious commands that they are taught as puppies like ‘sit’ and ‘stay’, they also learn a multitude of words all on their own without any input from humans, like ‘bath’ or ‘ball’. Furthermore, there’s a dog who can understand over 1,000 words and even responds to simple phrases and sentences.
So next time you’re walking along having a chat with your dog and your neighbours are giving you funny looks, just remember that it’s perfectly normal and can even be good for you!