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March 11, 2014

How many words does your pet know?

I loved all the comments on last week’s post about the different ways people talk to their pets. That conversation (with you guys, not with Eko) got me thinking about Eko’s vocabulary.  Studies suggest the average dog can learn around 150 separate words/commands. Chaser, an intellectual titan among

I loved all the comments on last week’s post about the different ways people talk to their pets. That conversation (with you guys, not with Eko) got me thinking about Eko’s vocabulary.  Studies suggest the average dog can learn around 150 separate words/commands. Chaser, an intellectual titan among pups, apparently knows a thousand words! If you haven’t seen it, definitely check out this video of Chaser in action.

I sat down and tried to figure out all the words and phrases Eko knows.  It was easy to run off the first dozen commands: sit, stay, down, over, spin, touch, shake, bang!(play dead), up, here (come), leave it, take it.

“Get to your bed,” is another phrase Eko knows and is quite happy to heed

“Watch me” is quite helpful for photos

When I say “What’s that?” Eko knows I’ve spotted something interesting. He drops whatever he’s doing to look around

Here’s a shocker – Eko can get a bit over exuberant at times. He knows when I say “gentle” it’s not a specific command, just a reminder to take it down a couple notches.  My favorite is, like in the above photo, when Eko looks at me to say “Is this gentle enough?”

Coming up with a familiar list of non-commands was also straightforward: Outside, walk, treat, hungry, ride, ready, “good morning,” yes (for positive reinforcement).  And like all dogs Eko knows exactly how to read the tones in my voice.

By my rough estimate – between commands, phrases, hand-signals and various other terms – Eko knows around 75 words. That means there is plenty of room for improvement! One are where Eko lacks is object vocabulary. He doesn’t know “ball” or “bone” or any of his toys. My plan is to change that.

So I have two questions, one fun and one business.  First, what’s your pet’s favorite word. Not even a close contest for Eko, “hungry” wins in a landslide.  Second, if you have taught your pet different object names, how did you do it?  It’s time for Eko and I to go back to school on this one so any advice you have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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