It turns out that knowing look in your dog’s eyes isn’t just a figment of your imagination.
Scientists in Hungary have proven that dogs understand the meaning of words (what we say) and intonation (how we say it).
We all know that dogs can match objects to words and respond to spoken commands. But this study reveals that dogs use the same regions of the brain as people to actually process language.
To prove it, Attila Andics and boffins at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, recruited 13 dogs — a mix of Golden Retrievers and Border Collies. They trained the dogs to sit still while an MRI scanner measured their brain activity.
The dogs weren’t restrained, as scientists explain, they “could leave the scanner at any time”.
A dog trainer then spoke familiar words of praise — such as “that’s it”, “clever” and “well done”. As well as common words such as “yet” and “if” which, until now, no one thought animals recognised.
Well, it turns out canines can process both types of words spoken in neutral and upbeat tones. Brain scans show the dogs processed familiar words with their left brain and tone with their right brain. Just like us.
Lastly, when positive words were spoken in a positive tone, researchers saw the dogs’ “rewards centre” — which is stimulated by nice things like treats — goes into overdrive.
As Andics says, “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.”
So, even if you tell your pooch in a chirpy tone that he’s going to the vets; he’ll be on to you.
Here scientists explain the groundbreaking discovery in their own words.
Pics and quotes from The Washington Post.