Dogs can’t speak, but do they think our words?

Darren Hughes
3 min readJul 26, 2022

Shower thought for today.

I walked outside and the dog I was minding went looking for the ball immediately. I didn’t say anything, but I did wonder, did the dog hear the word ‘ball’ in its head?

Do dogs have the same circuit humans have, where it has an auditory buffer? I don’t know. I can’t find the answer to the question, but I do know of several dogs that really do seem to know how to talk and it has changed how I view the internal world of dogs.

Below is Miso. Not my dog, not my picture, but a dog that really does seem to know how to talk.

Check out Miso on Instagram.

Miso uses buttons to communicate, an idea started by the speech pathologist Christina Hunger. She wrote the book ‘How Stella Learned to Talk’.

Here’s her website if you’re interested.

Stella is an awesome dog and really does seem to be communicating quite quickly.

Finally there is Bunny.

These dogs have learned to use the speech buttons to communicate their desires.

It occurred to me that I use words because I’ve learned to associate them with concepts. If these dogs have learned to associate words with concepts, might they not formulate the sound of the word in their head?

Maybe, maybe not. I have no idea how you could test that, and you could easily argue that they relate buttons to actions in the real world.

But if you watch these dogs, they regularly string several words together. This suggests to me that they are formulating a more complex concept than what a single word can supply. To me they are clearly learning how to talk.

It fascinates me. I love dogs and I regularly see the frustration on their face as they try to communicate with me with me asking ‘what do you want? I know you want something but I don’t understand.’ (Minding a dog means I don’t know their habits so couldn’t work out what the dog wanted.)

So my shower thought is, as these dogs gain more and more words, might their level of thinking be improving?

I haven’t read Stella’s book yet, but I suspect it will be fascinating.

I’m keen to know what your thoughts are. I’m pretty sure I’m not anthropomorphising.

Cheers all. Be nice to your animals.

Darren Hughes

Life has so many questions. So many issues. So much potential. I occasionally have thoughts that might help you. I hope I can. Peace Out humans.