What happens when you say the magic 'w-word'? You know, walk? Does your dog loose it's mind? Does he spin in circles, jump and bark? Race for the door? How about the dreaded word 'vet'? Does she hide under the bed? Give you the saddest puppy eyes she can make?
Well, there might be something more to these reactions than simple training. Sure, the more you say a word, the more they seem to understand, but until now, we just assumed that our dogs were reacting to our tone of voice. Not true.
Turns out, man's best friend gets us on an even deeper level. Scientists in Hungary published a groundbreaking study that proves dogs understand what words mean and the tone used when we speak them.
For example, you say "Rosie, let's go to the vet!" in an excited tone. Rosie knows you said 'vet' and she's not buying your fake excitement.
We already know that dogs respond to human voices, can be directed by human speech and can match hundreds of objects to words. But this new discovery means that dogs are even more like us than we thought! They process language using the same regions of the brain as people.
Fido Knows What's Up
Brain scans show that dogs can process familiar words, no matter how they were said, using the left side of their brain just like humans. Then tone, the way words are said, was processed in the right side of the brain - again, just like humans.
As we already know, a combination of praise and tone that match like "good boy!" stimulate the reward center of their brains, just like it does in humans. Dogs know the difference between what we say and how we say it, but they can combine the two correctly.
It is possible that through selection, dogs have evolved to understand human language, but the evolution of speech-related brain structures like the ones we're seeing today is not likely to have happened so quickly.
They've only been living as domesticated pets for about 15,000 years. Scientists say that it's more likely the result of something much more ancient in our dogs.
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