The eternal question that puzzled many a dog lovers ― does your dog understand words? has just been answered with scientific evidence. Your dog not only understands the words you speak, but also interprets how you say them!
Dogs understand more than humans have traditionally given them credit for, according to a new study by researchers at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary, published in the journal Science.
Researchers recruited 13 family dogs living with their human owners, and trained them to sit in an fMRI scanner — a device that measures brain activity — while awake.
Inside the scanner, the researchers played a trainer’s voice saying certain phrases with varying types of intonation.
The dogs’ brains process language in a similar way to humans, with the right side dealing with emotion and the left processing meaning. The positive words spoken in a positive tone prompted the strongest activity in the brain’s reward centers.
It was only when both sides of the brain agreed they were hearing praise that the dog was truly happy.
“Dog brains care about both what we say and how we say it. Praise can work as a reward only if both word meaning and intonation match.” ―Attila Andics, Lead researcher
This is the first major finding using noninvasive neuroscience with awake animals — usually, they have to be drugged or restrained.
But then didn’t the dog lovers always know that their little Snoopy understands words and grammar both? 🙂