Many dog owners are convinced that their pet understands them and now a study has proved them right.
Researchers from the the Department of Ethology at the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, found that dogs not only understand what we say but how we say it.
The investigators trained 13 dogs to voluntarily lie in an MRI brain scanner to monitor what happened in their brains when a trainer spoke to them. They found that dogs process information just like humans with the right hemisphere of the brain dealing with emotion and the left-side with meaning.
Dogs heard praise words like “Good boy,” “super,” and “well done” and meaningless words, like, “however,” “even if,” and “although,” in both praising and neutral intonations.
“They can not only separately process what we say and how we say it, but they can also combine these two types of information in the reward center of the brain (the region which typically responds to food, sex, being petted, or even a nice music in humans),” said lead researcher Dr Attila Andics. “A dogs’ reward center is activated only when both word meaning and intonation were consistent – a praise word said in a happy tone.”
He added: “If we are conscious about the study’s results when we talk to our dogs, we can help to make communication between our species even more effective. We don’t think dogs will start talking though.”
In the future, scientists are planning to research how pooches process and represent different speech sounds, different speakers and even grammar.