Does my dog understand me?
I think at some point every dog owner has wished that their dog could speak. However, just because your dog doesn't communicate with words doesn't mean they can't understand us! In fact, dogs not only understand us but have ways of responding to us as well.
Most dog owners have a "dog voice" - even if they won't admit it. It's fairly well known that dogs can understand tone of voice and respond positively to a friendly tone of voice. However, it is also true that dogs can discern the meaning behind that tone! Scientists in Hungary discovered that the "happy" part of a dog's brain only activates when the meaning matches the positive tone of voice. Dogs may hesitantly respond to our speech but are only truly happy when they understand that they're receiving praise of some kind.
Dogs can also communicate back to us through body language, meaning it's very important that owners understand how to decipher that body language. For example, a dog wagging its tail is often seen as a universally happy signal but that couldn't be further from the truth - it simply means that the dog is emotionally aroused. That emotion could be excitement, happiness, fear, or aggression. Dogs also have unique body language cues for fear, anxiety, relaxation, and more!
What does this mean for us? First, make yourself more aware of how you speak to your dog - for instance, when your dog gets groomed make sure that you heap praise on them with your tone as well as your words! If you laugh at them they will understand that in some way we're not happy with their new look and be embarrassed (or at least a dog's version of embarrassment). Second, familiarize yourself with the body language of dogs to understand how you can make them as happy and comfortable as possible.
At some point in the future scientists will figure out how to truly communicate with dogs but for now this is the best we can do!