PARENTS

Why Your Baby Understands The Dog

22/07/2009 12:02 | Updated 22 May 2015

If ever you were struggling to think of a reason to have children, this is it; babies can talk to animals.

Well, not all animals, just dogs as far as we know, and they can't strictly talk to them, rather they can understand them. How cool is that?

The only flaw is that babies can't tell us what the dogs are saying, but imagine if they could: "Yes mummy, he loves you intently, and he doesn't gaze adoringly at you like that because you smell of pork chops".

New research from Brigham Young University in the US showed that infants as young as six months could understand the tone of various barks, from angry to friendly, and match them to pictures of dogs being aggressive or friendly. Now that's the kind of research worth the money spent on it!

You might not agree, but this work helps us learn more about how babies develop language skills and learn so quickly. The research suggests that detecting tone is one of the first stages of learning.

Understanding dogs is a winner. But this research also makes me think that very small babies must already be able to detect the tone of parent interaction, from happy banter to tearing strips off each other, earlier than we might think. Note to self: be nice, even if he does leave every cupboard door open.

"Emotion is one of the first things babies pick up on in their social world," said BYU psychology professor Ross Flom, lead author of the study.

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