Do You Talk to Your Dog Like She’s Human?

If you do, that's good, because researchers say we might soon have devices that let them talk back.

Cathy Weselby  |  Oct 18th 2013

Do you talk to your dog? All the time? I don’t mean just simple commands such as “sit” and “stay,” but rather talking to your dog, you know, as if she were a person. I do, and I’ve noticed lately being unemployed and therefore home more often that I talk to Sasha, an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix, quite a bit. Maybe even more than I talk to my husband.

I talk to her about the silly things I read on Facebook, what I’m planning to do that day or how I’m feeling. She’s a really good listener and seems to even understand what I’m saying. As it turns out, I’m not alone. Almost half of pet parents surveyed by the American Humane Association admitted to talking to their pet, and 80 percent said their pet seemed to understand and respond.

Apparently, it’s not too far-fetched. There’s a Border Collie in Brooklyn named Chaser who knows more than 1,000 words and can understand sentence structure. Sasha’s not as smart, but she’s pretty good at understanding the phrases she wants to understand — such as “dinner,” “treat,” and “let’s go” — and turning a deaf ear to “stay,” “bath time,” and “leave it.”

Scientists say we may soon have devices that will allow our pets to talk back to us. Megan Garber in the Atlantic wrote about Con Slobodchikoff, an animal researcher who is deciphering the language of prairie dogs. Slobodchikoff believes we’ll have the technology within five to 10 years that will allow us to communicate with our dogs. And the folks at Google are already working on this technology, on a project dubbed “FIDO” short for “facilitating interactions for dogs with occupations.”

If this technology becomes available to the public, then soon when I talk to Sasha, she will be able to talk back. Here’s how I imagine one of our first conversations might go:

Sasha: “I’m hungry. I’m hungry. Did you hear me? I said I’m hungry.”

Me: “You just had breakfast five minutes ago.”

Sasha: “So what? Feed me again. I’m hungry.”

Me: “Heard you the first time.”

Sasha: “Why don’t you buy me squirrel-flavored treats?”

Me: “Because they don’t make squirrel-flavored treats.”

Sasha: “But you could make me squirrel-flavored treats. The dog next door gets homemade treats … why don’t you bake me treats?”

Me: “How do you know the dog next door gets homemade treats?”

Sasha: “Duh! I can smell them baking. Haven’t you heard about my amazing sense of smell?”

Me: “Yes, yes, I have.”

Sasha: “And didn’t you read that dogs have emotions like humans? Would you deny me the pleasure of anticipating some home-baked squirrel cookies?”

On second thought, maybe things are better just the way they are. I talk to Sasha and she looks at me with her adoring brown eyes and everything’s right with the world.

How about you? Do you talk to your dog a lot? What would your dog say if he or she could talk back to you? Tell me about it in comments.

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