How Many Commands Can A Dog Learn & How Many Words Can A Dog Understand

If you have a dog, then you already know how intelligent they are. They are able to learn so many commands and tricks that we can even use dogs as service animals to help us in our everyday lives and tasks. 

So, have you ever wondered exactly how many words and commands a dog can actually understand? We’re here to answer that question for you!

Dogs are able to understand a vast range of commands, and no command can be too difficult for your dog, as long as you spend the time training them, positively reinforcing good behavior and approach them with lots of love and patience.

So, how many can they actually learn?

How Many Commands Can A Dog Learn & How Many Words Can A Dog Understand

How Many Commands Can A Dog Learn?

Dogs are probably more intelligent than you realized. Studies have shown that the vast majority of dogs can actually comprehend more than 150 words and can even intentionally deceive you or other dogs in order to get their way and to get treats. 

According to a range of behavioral studies, research shows that dogs have the mental abilities similar to a human child between the ages of 2 to 2.5 years. When it comes to learning commands, dogs are actually capable of learning around 165 words on average. 

These numbers are based on the majority of dog breeds and their abilities, but there are actually what we call ‘super dogs’ which are intelligent working breeds such as Border Collies, that are capable of 200 to 250 words and commands.

These dogs are also able to learn new concepts and commands at an extremely fast pace. 

When it comes to learning new commands, breeds such as Border Collies are number one, followed by Poodles, and German Shepherds. Fourth on the list is Golden Retrievers, followed closely by Dobermans, Shetland Sheepdogs and Labrador Retrievers. 

How many commands your dog is able to learn depends on your dog and their ability to focus. In addition to this, the number of commands depends on how you train them.

Therefore, there is no fixed or exact number of commands that a dog will learn, as it depends on you and your dog itself. 

How Many Words Can A Dog Understand?

On average, most dogs of normal intelligence will be able to recognize and differentiate around 130-165 different words, as long as they are fully fledged adults. Being so closely bonded with humans, dogs are also familiar with human speech and phrases. 

That being said, some studies conducted with Border Collies show that these dogs are in the top 20% of breeds when it comes to intelligence, and can therefore comprehend far more words and phrases.

Studies show that these types of dogs are actually about to understand an average of about 250 words or more. 

In addition to this, dogs with this level of intelligence can prove that they can even count to four or five, and are able to differentiate words from others.

There are even some dogs, such as the Tik Tok famous Bunny, who rose to fame after her owner taught her how to speak! Bunny has the incredible ability to communicate with their owner with a board full of buttons and symbols that have pre recorded words and phrases on them. 

These boards are called augmentative and alternative communication devices which are usually used for non verbal people to communicate. Over time, Bunny’s owner has taught her to understand the buttons and the consequences of the buttons.

The dog is now able to understand and communicate with her owner through over 70 buttons and phrases. You can read all about Bunny and her language skills here

Whilst the average number of words for a dog to learn is about 165, it really does depend on the dog, the breed, and the trainer.

For instance, the typical dog owner that does not spend a lot of time training their dog would struggle to teach a breed of average intelligence more than 5-10 words or phrases. 

What Commands Should I Teach My Dog?

There are a great number of commands that your dog will be able to learn, however, there are some commands that are absolutely essential. For instance, these are:

  • Sit – to sit ready for treats or commands
  • Stay – to wait and stay in once place to keep them safe from harm
  • Come – to recall your dog successfully
  • Down – to stop your dog from jumping up onto furniture or leaping onto people
  • Drop It – to drop items on command
  • Leave It – so that your dog is able to leave items or food that is potentially harmful
  • Watch Me – your dog can focus on you and your command
  • Heel – so that your dog walks nicely on a leash without pulling
  • Place/Bed/Kennel – so your dog knows to sit calmly in their bed or place
  • Outside – to teach your dog to use the bathroom outside and house train them

These commands are the most common and most important when it comes to training your dog, but you are not limited to just these commands and phrases.

Your dog will be able to learn many more commands such as Off, Paw, Wait, No, Take It, Speak, Howl, Shake, Quiet and other tricks to impress your friends and create a stronger bond with your dog. 

How Many Times Does It Take For A Dog To Learn A Command?

Most dogs are able to pick up on commands and learn new tricks within just a few days, and only a few repetitions. When it comes to training a dog it’s all about consistency, frequency of the training sessions, repetition and positive reinforcement.

If you stick to these rules, then it should be relatively easy and simple for your dog to learn new things in no time at all. 

However, some dog breeds will learn new commands much more quickly than others. For instance, a Border Collie or other intelligent working breeds like German Shepherds will pick up concepts and commands very easily.

These breeds tend to learn a command after two repetitions and are successful in learning the command in less than five repetitions.

On the other hand, less motivated and hard working dogs will not pick up on the command that quickly, and may need a few days or weeks with frequent training sessions to successfully learn a command.

That being said, all dogs, no matter what the age, are able to be trained, and most dogs only need around 6 months to a year to be fully trained. 


To summarize, dogs can be trained fairly easily with a little bit of patience and dedication. Dogs are incredibly intelligent and hard working creatures that are always eager to learn and please their owners. As a result, they can learn many commands and tricks with ease.

Studies show that dogs can actually learn up to 200 commands and signals without fail and are able to comprehend around 165 words! 

Daniel Johnson