You may think your dog has trouble learning and obeying commands, but it turns out your pooch might just be exhibiting selective hearing. A new study in Science Magazine shows your canine understands much more than you thought they did. Canine responses appear to be based on the tone of voice when paired with the words spoken to them. And now there’s scientific evidence to prove it!
According to the study, dogs respond differently if you say the same thing in a neutral voice or in a positive tone, though the study didn’t investigate that high squeaky voice many of us use when speaking to our pets!
The study, from a University in Budapest, Hungary, reports that different parts of dogs’ brains process and react to a word they know and how it’s said, in a fashion similar to our own brains.
Using an MRI, a Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine, the scientists trained 13 dogs of different breeds to enter the chamber and lie down without moving, while images recorded the dogs’ brain activity. Then they said common words like “good boy” and “well done,” as well as unusual words like “however” and “as if.” All words were said in neutral and praising tones.
The images showed high brain activity when the praising, known words were spoken in positive tones. Little activity was shown with known words spoken in neutral tones or unknown words spoken in either praising or neutral tones.
“There’s no acoustic reason for this difference,” said neuroscientist Attila Andics. “It shows that these words have meaning to dogs.”
Scientists say that the dogs are paying attention to meaning and
emotion in words, and interpreting them. According to Science, some dogs are known to recognize more than 1000 human words, way over and above the usual “cookie,” “walk,” “car” and “park” we pet parents all use.
They also believe dogs carefully watch your body language and your eyes. This is especially true in hearing-impaired animals. So if you’re in the habit of calling your dog a silly goober in any language, but smiling when you say it, you’ll probably get a tail wag and a smile right back.
The dogs featured in this story are all looking for homes – click on their photos for more information!