Dogs Understand More than You Think
When you talk to your dog then you should be careful, not just about what you say but also how you say it. A new study has revealed that dogs can understand both the words and the tone of voice used to deliver them!
The study, published in the journal Science, found that dogs process human speech in the same way that we do. How you express yourself to your canine really matters. Scientists from Hungary scanned the brains of dogs to examine their reactions to the hearing their trainers’ voices. They discovered that the dogs only feel rewarded by praise when the intonation of the voices matched the phrases used. The study also showed that dogs process speech in the same regions of their brains as humans do.
The research was led by Attila Andics from Eötvös oránLd University in Budapest. He has expressed his surprise at the results. He and his colleagues trained 13 dogs to lie motionless in MRI scanners so that they could monitor their brains’ reactions to human speech.
The dogs were then played recordings through headphones. These featured words of praise and neutral words expressed with a variety of intonations. The dogs showed increased activity in the left hemispheres of their brains if they heard words that they recognised and could understand. On the other hand, a change in intonation resulted in reactions in the right hemispheres of their brains.
Responses to Pleasure
The study also examined the area of the dogs’ brans which responds to pleasure. The results were clear. The reward centres only showed an increase in activity when both praise words and the appropriate praise intonation were used. What the scientists could not measure was the significance of body language and facial expression when we speak to dogs.
How People Learnt to Talk
Not only has this research revealed more about the way we can communicate with our dogs, it also tells us much about the evolution of human speech. As the ability to understand words and tones is present in other species, it is clear that humans did not evolve new brain mechanisms to create language. The ability was already there and so language was an invention like the creation of a new tool.
Communicating with Canines
So dogs understand us. All we have to do is learn to understand them better. Dogs cannot speak but they can use a combination of barks and body language to tell us how they are feeling. If we improve our understanding of their visual and audible cues, we could build even closer bonds with our canine companions. It would be nice to have a good chat!