Dogs Can Understand Human Speech, Scientists Learn

Scientists discover dogs process language in a similar way to humans.

31/08/2016 12:26

Dogs can actually understand what some words mean, say scientists in a groundbreaking new study.

The scientists at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest convinced 13 dogs to lie inside an MRI and be analysed while spoken commands were given to them.


Lead researcher of the team Dr Attila Andics said: “We humans also love talking to dogs all the time. We praise them, call them,”

“But quite little is known about what dogs get out of all of this, of how dogs interpret our words. Do they process the tone of our words only or do they process the words as well?”

What they found was that just like humans, dogs aren’t just processing the noise, they’re processing the word and then processing whether the intonation is positive or negative.

As an example the scientists tried out classic phrases like “well done”, and “good boy” and found that when spoken with positive intonation both sides of the brain lit up.


However when they said the words in a neutral tone of voice the dogs didn’t respond.

“This shows … that dogs not only separate what we say from how we say it, but also that they can combine the two for a correct interpretation of what those words really meant,” Andics said.

While the study does conveniently point to the theory that dogs have simply evolved alongside humans to better understand them the authors point out that this is extremely unlikely.

A far more probably reason is that this is an ancient brain function that has existed in both dogs and humans and has been exploited to allow both to link sounds to meanings.

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