When Hetty started puppy class, at 13 weeks, the trainer told us the puppies were too young to understand words. Well, we’d already taught Hetty to sit using words only and she knew the word ‘ball’ from about 10 weeks.
In my favourite book of the year, Lessons in Chemistry, there is an incredible dog who knows hundreds of words. Apparently the norm is about 50 words. I was lucky enough to meet Bonnie Garmus, the author of Lessons in Chemistry, and told her how much I liked her dog character and his incredible vocabulary. I joked that my dog only knows about four words. But that isn’t true.
Actually, she knows lots…
Here are all (I think) the words Hetty the cockapoo knows:
- Sit, stay, lie down, roll over (she can have slightly selective hearing on all of these)
- No (another one where she suffers from selective hearing)
- Wee wee
- Garden, walkies, outside, park, car (although she only thinks that relates to my husband’s car, not mine!)
- Treat, water, din dins (I used to say ‘food’ because I didn’t want to confuse her with ‘lunch’ and ‘breakfast’, and she seemed to understand food, but then my husband came up with the silly word ‘din dins’ for all meals and it sends her crazy with absolute joy every time)
- Special treat – this refers to a very particular large treat, which she is only allowed one of a day. Watching her eat one is one of the best things ever – she chooses to take it out into the garden and run around with it as she loves it so much
- Ball, elephant (her elephant toy), toy (this refers to one specific toy she likes), stick
- Guinea pigs, birds, dogs/ doggies
- ‘Shall I come and see you?’ (this is what my husband says to her through a door or window, then she runs to wait for him)
- ‘Shall we watch telly?’ (she knows this means she is allowed to sit on the settee – we know she is tired and will fall asleep almost straightaway!)
Hetty also responds to her own name and seems to know my younger kids’ names, although not ‘Mummy’, ‘Daddy’ or my eldest’s name.
That seems like rather a lot of words for a puppy of only six months!