Not in the way that we do. While they can certainly associate words with objects, they pick up more on body language than what we say exactly. An example given in one of the citations is when the owner says, “Go get my pen from the desk,” and the dog does it. In this case, the dog will have learned the association between the actual pen and the word ‘pen,’ and when the owner says ‘desk,’ he uses a subtle clue, such as looking towards the desk, to signify where he wants the dog to go. From there, the dog will retrieve the pen. So the only thing the dog really understood in English is probably ‘pen,’ with the rest being body language.
Dogs understand English words because they associate the word with something else. When a dog sees a bone, treat or toy (etc.) enough time and hears the word along with it, the dog eventually matches the sound of the word with object. Dogs learn sit, stay, lie down, etc. because they are usually rewarded with a treat, for some of the commands the dog associates it with a hand motion or tug of the leash for heal. Studies have concludes that dogs have a vocabulary that includes between 200 and 250 words, however it has not been proven that that understand the meaning of the English language
Dogs associate words and sounds with objects, and what is interesting is that dogs have the ability to understand multiple languages if taught early. As already mentioned, dogs also pay a lot of attention to body language of the speaker and the tone in which they are speaking with as this will relay information to the dog in its understanding of the situation.
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