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When I was a kid the family farm dog, Rex, could be told to "go get ..." and he would go to the fields and single out me, my brother, or both of us and push/herd to get us home. Of coures understanding a command is specific and my be a programmed response rather than comprehension.

Rex loved to shake hands and once when he was asked "do you know any other tricks?" he looked around and lifted his other paw. The ability to understand a question and respond with a joke is something that I would say shows a pretty high level of comprehension.
 

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Rex was mostly bernese mountain dog. He might have been full blooded but he was a pound dog with no known history.

He sired 2 litters of puppies (this was before shelters required neutering).
His pups were with a shepherd and a shepherd/collie mix. I know at least one member of his line was still working in the early '90s. All the dogs from his line were good work dogs.

My parents borrow the neighbor's dogs sometimes now. Last summer we had the poodles up there and we lost track of the smaller one. One of the Neighbor kids said "Elmira will find him". They told Elmira to find the other poodle. Elmira smelled my bigger poodle and the kid said to find the other one. Elmira followed the scent of the only dog she didn't know and found my missing dog.

I don't know how many words the dogs know and how much is body language and tone of voice but anyone who has been around work dogs on a daily basis knows they have a high level of understanding of some part of human communication.
 

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If the dog has a simple, or complex communication system a human depends on both the dog and the human. There is always some level of understanding which can range from the dog knowing that when the human picks up the dog dish that it will be time to eat soon all the way to the level involved for working dogs.

The trouble with communication with dogs is that there is more than the verbal communication and simple body language that we use. The dog body language is much more complex and they also clue into the environment to interpret the other language elements (like the sound of running water in the morning means a human is taking a bath and will let them out soon). I don't think it is really possible to compare canine-human communication to human-human communication because they are so different. The emotional communication is on a simpler level, but it is on a purer level. If you are sad the dog will not tell you what you could have done different, the only communication the dog needs is what is needed in body language to comfort you.
 

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Some dogs use tone of voice and body language but some dogs can understand not only words, but sometimes complete sentences. They all have at least some understanding of our communication.
 
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