Can Dogs Understand Human Language?

Can Dogs Understand Human Language?

Do dogs really understand what humans are trying to say?

Well, even you might think whether or not your canine friend is on the same page as you. The quest to explore dog behavior and their understanding of human language isn’t something new. You may have also heard that it doesn’t really matter what you say to your pet as long as you’re being nice and courteous.

A recent study conducted in Hungary concluded that dogs understand human language and their brain processes language in a very similar way to how our brain does. The research led by professionals at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest selected 13 dogs that lived with their owners and measured their brain activity. The dogs, majority being Golden retrievers and border collies were made to sit in an fMRI scanner after hearing their owners say different phases with varying types of intonation.

The pets were made to listen to different recordings. To measure the difference in dog’s response, the trainers and researchers used ‘praise’ phases in neutral tones and ‘commonly used words and phrases’ in an exciting, praising tone.

What’s interesting to note here is that the researchers found that our furry friends processed the words and the tone used in phrases separately. Simply put your dog would process the phrase and tone using different areas of their brain.

When dogs hear praise or appreciation, the left hemisphere of their brain is activated. And this response is exactly what is seen in human brain. That’s right. It is seen that dogs like us process language and vocabulary using the left hemisphere of their brain. What’s more fascinating is that dogs can process phrases and recognize each word as distinct. On the other hand, pets use the right hemisphere of their brain to process owner’s tone. And again, this is the same area of the brain that humans use to process the tone of the information.

Another important thing to remember is that while dogs process familiar phrases regardless of tone, it doesn’t mean that the tone isn’t significant in the first place. Further research shows that praise phrases in a positive tone are more useful and can in fact work as a reward.

So if you appreciate your dog in a positive tone, they would register it as positive attention in their brain and get excited. On the other hand, if you speak praise phrases in a neutral tone, they would still recognize them, but might not get as excited if the words were spoken in a praising tone. What’s more interesting is that your canine friend would know that you’re not pleased even if you say “wow, you’ve ruined this place again’ in the most encouraging, sweetest voice. That’s right. You’re not fooling anyone!

The bottom line is that the reward center in your dog’s brain is activated only when you use a positive phrase with a positive tone. From this research, you can safely conclude that your pet not only hears you, they can also understand how you say things and whether or not what you say to them matters a great deal.


Source: The Verge


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