Did You Know That Your Pup Actually Understands You? Well... Sort Of?

Did You Know That Your Pup Actually Understands You? Well... Sort Of?

Sometimes, when we speak to our pups, it almost seems as though they understand enough of what we say to be able to respond in a pretty appropriate way.

But does your fur ball really understand you? Apparently, according to a recent study, he may – and your tone is just as important as the actual meaning behind the words. According to this study, pups use the left hemisphere of their brains to process words while they process intonation – regardless of the actual word – in the right hemisphere. This indicates that fur balls process what you say and how you say it separately.

Lead author of the study Dr. Attila Andics said, “What makes dogs special is that they pay attention to human social signals, including speech. This study is the first step to understanding how dogs interpret human speech, and these results can also help to make communication and cooperation between dogs and humans even more efficient.”

This study involved 13 fur balls of varying breeds. They were taught to lie still inside an MRI machine for more than seven minutes while it recorded and measured their neural activity. This pups then listened to a trainer who they were familiar with as she recited different words in various intonations. Positive words such as “good boy” and neutral, meaningless words such as “although” were spoken in both praising intonations and neutral intonations.

The scans showed that the left brain hemispheres responded most to the positive words, while the right hemisphere reacted only to positive words with positive tones to match. In fact, they responded so well that the findings suggest that these praise words can even be used as rewards in place of treats!

At the same time, this doesn’t mean that the pups necessarily understand words the same way humans do. It’s theorized that the praise words are simply familiar to the fur balls, and their use attracts a pup’s attention more than words with no meaning to them. “The study doesn’t claim that dogs understand words in the sense that we understand each other’s words. It shows that dogs’ brains process the sounds of a person’s voice in two ways,” said Dr. Clive Wynne, psychology professor and director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University. “The dog’s brain really can discriminate meaningful from meaningless words.”

According to Dr. Laurie Santos, a psychology professor at Yale University, the study “provides interesting new evidence that dogs are tracking several of the same linguistic features that humans do, and that dogs seem to understand the intent behind some of our utterances.” She added, “I think it shows the way that domestication has shaped dogs to pay attention to yet another important human social cue.”

Fascinating findings indeed! What do you make of them? Do like and share this interesting read!

Feature Image Source: CNN

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