Does it sometimes seems like your dog knows exactly what you’re saying? Research has long shown that dogs respond to intonation and emotion in human speech, but a new study by PhD candidate Victoria Ratcliffe takes a deeper look into the canine brain. Ratcliffe and her team reported their findings in the November 26, 2014 issue of Current Biology. The findings of the study suggest that dogs may take apart, dissociate, and process speech components in a human-like manner. They also process multiple components of human speech simultaneously.
The study had dogs listening to human speech from speakers on either side of the animal. The speech was either a command that held meaning for the dog or words that held no meaning. The speech’s emotional tone was also manipulated, either stripped of emotion intonation or exaggerated in emotional intonation. When the command speech was broadcasted, the dogs turned their heads toward the right-side speaker, showing a bias towards the left hemisphere of the brain, where humans process syntax and words.
This finding, by helping us better understand how dogs understand us, can assist in communication with them.
So, next time you think your dog understands what you’re saying, you may be right!