New study shows that dogs understand what we are saying and the feeling behind it
While I doubt that you need me to tell you this, dogs are absolutely wonderful creatures. There's a reason that we call K-9's 'man's best friend' and it's because not only are dogs loyal, caring animals but they are also hysterical. However, while some dogs can seem like they are literally functioning on half a brain cell, it turns out that they're a bit more clever than we give them credit for.
It has been revealed that when you're having a chat with your dog, they are actually taking in some of what you are saying. Yes, crazy dog talkers of the world, rejoice! We've all been guilty of talking to our dogs like they're humans, telling them about our day and what we're having for dinner that night. It seems normal when you're doing it with your own pet, but watching someone else chat with their dog can be a bizarre, and sometimes unsettling, experience.
But according to new research conducted in Hungary, dogs can understand both the words we say and the way we say it to them. The study claims that the animals use the same parts of the brain that humans use in order to recognize spoken language.
"During speech processing, there is a well-known distribution of labor in the human brain," lead researcher Attila Andics from Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest told the press this week.
"It is mainly the left hemisphere's job to process word meaning, and the right hemisphere's job to process intonation."
When the team measured the dogs' brain functions using a scanner, they found the same kind of cognitive division taking place when listening to their trainers' speech as can be found in humans.
"The human brain not only separately analyses what we say and how we say it, but also integrates the two types of information, to arrive at a unified meaning," Andics said. "Our findings suggest that dogs can also do all that, and they use very similar brain mechanisms."
During the experiment, the team played recordings of human voices talking to the animals using different combinations of vocabulary and intonation. Sometimes the dogs would hear praise spoken in a neutral way, other times it was neutral wording spoken in a praising intonation.
Regardless of how the researchers delivered the language, the dogs' brain could dissect the language as recognise certain words as praise, meaning that dogs can process vocabulary independently of how it is delivered.
However, while dogs were able to understand certain words, the team found the praise would only trigger the canine brain's reward center if it was spoken in a praising way. Basically, dogs want to receive complimentary language in a complimentary way, much like humans. If you're delivering praise in a neutral way, it won't have the same effect on your animal, which would be devastating, as dogs absolutely love receiving praise.
"It shows that for dogs, a nice praise can very well work as a reward, but it works best if both words and intonation match"
"So dogs not only tell apart what we say and how we say it, but they can also combine the two, for a correct interpretation of what those words really meant. Again, this is very similar to what human brains do."
So there you have it, talking to your dog isn't something only reserved for slightly deranged people. Next time you tell your dog that they're a good boy or girl, mean it. They will know if you don't.