Is the understanding of human language by dogs similar to that of humans?

Illustrative photo

While it is well known that our dogs are sensitive to our intonation, it seems that they are also able to understand what we say to them. This is what a team of Hungarian researchers sought to demonstrate.

Attila Andics . ethologist at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest , Hungary, performed brain scans on 13 dogs of various breeds to study their reactions to words spoken at their address, as reported by National Geographic .

It was first necessary to accustom the canines to remain completely still during their examination by fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging). The 6 Border Collies , 4 Golden Retrievers , German Shepherd , Bichon and Chinese Crested Dog all excelled at this exercise after months of training.

Then, the researchers made them listen to audio recordings of their owners , still under fMRI. The words of their masters were pronounced in 4 different ways : a compliment in a playful tone , a neutral word in a neutral tone , a compliment in a neutral tone and a neutral word in a playful tone.

The authors of the study found that the left cerebral hemisphere of dogs reacted to the word , while the right hemisphere responded to intonation . However, the dog’s pleasure center was only activated when a compliment was paired with a tone of praise . This indicates, in a way, that the animal needs to feel sincerity in the words of its master.

Read also: The amazing story of a dog lover who takes care of 8 Newfoundlanders on a daily basis

Published in August 2016 in the journal Science , this study shows that the understanding of human language in our 4-legged friends is comparable to ours .

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