Your dog is listening to you better than you thought.
We all can have a tendency to speak to our beloved dogs with a bit of a baby-talk voice putting emphasis on tone rather than what we’re saying but a new study from Hungary suggests the our canine friends can actually understand words over the way we speak to them.
Scientists at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest have found that dogs use the same part of the brain that us humans use to process language meaning dogs can also interpret the meaning of words.
The study involved 13 dogs of varying breeds including border collies, golden retrievers and german shepherds and varying ages from one to 12 years old – all been trained to sit quietly. Each dog was placed into an fMRI scanner and was played a recording of their trainer relaying different combinations of words and tones.
The brains of the dogs were recorded and the results showed that like us, dogs process the words in different areas of the brain that then come together to find meaning in what is being said.
The most surprising finding was that dogs are not able to be tricked easily. When nonsensical language was said in a happy voice, there was not much reaction showing that when positive language is used together with positive tone, the reward area of the dog’s brain was activated. This was compared to neutral words with a positive tone which did not cause a reaction at all. In other words, saying “naughty boy” in a happy voice will not trick your dog into thinking you’re happy about what he did.
“Dog brains care about both what we say and how we say it,” said lead researcher Attila Andics, a neuroscientist at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest. “Praise can work as a reward only if both word meaning and intonation match.”