“Both what we say and how we say it matters to dogs.” – Attila Andics, Research Fellow at Eotvos Lorand University
Dog lovers would really want to know if their pet friends have the power to understand them. Dogs are full of love and affection. You can tell that by the way they cuddle. But, do dogs communicate? What happens when you talk to them?
Research reveals: Dogs understand you better than expected
A group of researchers at Eotvos Lorand University (ELU) in Budapest, Hungary, have the answer to your question. According to the results of their study, dogs have the ability to understand the meaning and the intonation of the words you use. Yes, dogs understand everything you say!
Attila Andics is the lead scientist of the study. She and her colleagues at ELU observed dogs’ neural activity to determine whether our canine friends are able to communicate.
The team observed 13 family dogs, and most of them were border collies and golden retrievers. There were also Chinese crested dogs and German shepherds.
Scientists used an fMRI machine to measure dogs’ brain activity through blood flow. These machines are used in hospitals that focus on brain issues.
Dogs needed t remain stationary in the machine for at least 7 minutes in order to provide correct results. Dogs can’t sit still for that long. To ease the process, researchers used the help of trainers who taught the animals to remain still in the fMRI.
Once this was accomplished, scientists played a recording of trainers’ voices. There were different words and intonation, including neutral and adulatory speech.
Trainers combined words of praise and neutral words using a neutral tone or praising tone. Praise words were said with praising tone and a neutral tone. Trainers verbalized neutral words with a neutral tone and a praising tone. Did dogs understand the meaning?
Humans use words to communicate. Some species make specific noises that mimic words. The bottlenose dolphin is one of these species. However, the production of words is limited to us, people.
This doesn’t mean that some animals are unable to understand us. According to the results of this study, dogs can process speech in ways that mirrors their owners.
“The human brain not only separately analyzes what we say and how we say it, but also integrates the two types of information, to arrive at a unified meaning,” one of the scientists said. “Our findings suggest that dogs can also do all that, and they use very similar mechanisms.”
The scientists refers to the results according to which both hemispheres of the brain function in the same way in humans and dogs. In humans, the left hemisphere processes words. The right hemisphere is responsible for the intonation.
Dogs’ brain can do the same. Incredible, right?
So, next time you wonder whether your dog understands a word you say, go back to this article and read it again if necessary.
This is an incredible discovery.
“Our research sheds new light on the emergence of words during language evolution,” Andics said. “What makes words uniquely human is not a special neural capacity, but our invention of using them.”