Yes, Your Dog Does Understand You!
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Most dog owners are convinced that their four-legged friends know exactly what they mean when they use certain words like sit, stay, or treat. However, researchers have always wondered whether canines really understand human speech or if they rely on other clues to deduce the meaning. For example, does the word “fetch” conjure up an image of a stick or ball in the dog’s mind, or does the pooch retrieve the object based on cues such as the owner’s tone or gesture? A new study by scientists at Atlanta’s Emory University seems to indicate that “man’s best friend” is not faking it – he/she does indeed know what the owner is saying.
“Many dog owners think that their dogs know what some words mean, but there really isn’t much scientific evidence to support that. We wanted to get data from the dogs themselves — not just owner reports,” said Ashley Prichard, a Ph.D. at Emory’s Department of Psychology and the study’s first author.
The researchers began by asking the owners of twelve dogs of various breeds to train their pets to identify two toys with different textures - such as a stuffed animal and a ball - by name. Once the dogs had mastered the task, they took turns inside a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner (fMRI). The owners then tested their pooch’s language prowess by first calling out the names of the toys they had been trained to recognize and then saying meaningless words such as “bobbu” and “bodmick” while holding up random objects the dogs hadn’t seen before.
The fMRI scans revealed that the regions of the dogs’ brains responsible for auditory processing showed different brain patterns when they heard words they were familiar with, compared with the ones they had never encountered before. While not enough to prove that the dogs were picturing their toys when they heard the word, it did indicate some sort of recognition. The researchers believe this is an important step forward in understanding how dogs process language.
Even more intriguing was that the dog’s brains showed a higher level of neural activity at the sound of unknown words. This is the exact opposite of what happens in human brains, which get more active at the sound of familiar words. The researchers hypothesize the dogs may be perking up at the sound of new words to try to understand them in the hopes of delighting their masters. "Dogs ultimately want to please their owners, and perhaps also receive praise or food," says Emory neuroscientist Gregory Burns, senior author of the study.
However, though your pet may understand human speech, the scientists recommend using visual and scent cues for training. “When people want to teach their dog a trick, they often use a verbal command because that’s what we humans prefer,” Prichard says. “From the dog’s perspective, however, a visual command might be more effective, helping the dog learn the trick faster.”
Resources: cbsnews.com, gizmondo.com, fmri.org, earthsky.org
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- adelyn101123 daysI have 3 dogs and ( depending on my feelings ) they always know how to act! 💜
- summer-destiny28 daysEvery time i try to talk to my dog she always gives me her paw
- princess150725 daysSo does mine!!! It must be a thing with dogs!! Mine actually listens to me! Its crazyyy!! But my whole life I've knew that dog can speak and listen. They just talk a little funny! Bark! Bark bark!!! Lol
- amelia_grl28 daysI would get a dog but I have cats
- mega_1d_lover29 daysI want a dog but my house is very crowded already.
- temmielovesfnafabout 1 monthI have 2 dogs one is a Jack Russel Terrior/Chihuahua the other one is a Pit Bull/Border Collie/Great Pyrenees
- 30alexissabout 2 monthsMy dog looks like Truffles :)
- progamer10222 monthsbut i do have a puppie
- progamer10222 monthsmy dog just got put down
- paulinatamaabout 1 monthIm so sorry :( that sounds terrible
- clearsightmoon3 monthsHe is a American Eskimo
- clearsightmoon3 monthsI also have a dog named Donut.