All of us dog owners have done it. You know what I mean by "it." I mean full-on, human conversations with our dog. Especially when nobody is looking! And the way they look at us when we're talking is the best part! Almost as if they can understand us. Well, a new study shows that they just might!
Scientists in Hungary have published a new study that suggests that not only do dogs understand our intonation of our words, but can understand the real meaning behind those words.
We already know that dogs can build a vocabulary, as evidenced by the study that showed a dog matching hundreds of objects with their word over time. But this study shows even more, that dogs are more like us than ever. They actually use the same regions of their brain to process language as we do.
This study was unique from other studies in that it didn't just observe dogs as they responded to language, it actually used an fMRI scanner to take a look inside their brains. Don't worry, this study was completely safe. The dogs weren't restrained, they could simply leave the scanner if they wanted to.
The experiments were conducted at Eotvos Lorand University using 13 family dogs. A female trainer who socialized herself with the dogs beforehand spoke key phrases to the dogs while their brains were being scanned. All of these phrases were phrases used by their family such as "clever," "well done," and "that's it." She also spoke neutral words to them like "yet" and "if," words that the researchers figured the dogs wouldn't recognize. All of the words were spoke both in a happy tone and a neutral tone.
The result? The pups processed recognized words the same way, in the left hemisphere, no matter what tone was used. This is the same way our brains, as humans, process language. Tone, on the other hand, is processed in the right hemisphere.
So, what does that really mean for us? Well, even if we say the word "walk" in a gruff tone or the word "vet" in a happy tone, they probably won't fall for us.
Basically, you should say what you mean! No matter what tone you use, your dog will know if you're using nice words on them or telling them "good job." Now, go talk to your dog!