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Dogs Probably Don't Understand What You're Saying, But They listen When You Speak

Image for representation. Credits: Unsplash.

Image for representation. Credits: Unsplash.

The researchers at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest found that while dogs do indeed have human like hearing capabilities and are able to perceive speech sounds, they are unable to understand the difference between word sounds the way we do.

Does your canine make puppy dog eyes every time you refuse a treat or scold them? Sadly, however, research has found that dogs don’t really understand what you’re saying.

The researchers at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest found that while dogs do indeed have human like hearing capabilities and are able to perceive speech sounds, they are unable to understand the difference between word sounds the way we do.

Words, and the way we perceive them, largely depends on the way they are said - that is speech sounds. Even the slightest alteration can change the entire meaning.

The scientists used a method called electroencephalography to study the brain activity of family dogs, reports CNN. The method involves sticking electrodes to the dogs’ heads.

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The researchers played the dogs instructions that they are likely to know, for instance — “sit", and also other nonsensical words that sound the same but have different or no meanings — like “sut."

One of the researchers told CNN that the dogs were not able to differentiate between the speech sounds of the actual word and the similar sounding word and instead, perceived them all as one sound. As it turns out, dogs don’t really pay attention to all the speech sounds.

The study, however, confirmed that dogs do really listen to their humans.

Another study published in October had found that faces are more important for humans than dogs, according to a brain activity study on how the two species see each other.

“The brain imaging findings in the study suggest that faces may be of crucial importance to humans and probably other primates, but not to all mammals, for example not for dogs," Attila Andics, who led the study at Eotvos Lorand university in Budapest, told AFP.

The brain response results showed that a large part of the human brain’s neural network responds more to faces than non-faces in the videos. Only a small part responded more to human than dog images. In dogs’ brains however, no parts responded more to faces but some parts responded more to dog images than human images, said the study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

In another study on dog behaviour published earlier this year, it was revealed that dogs go through similar behavioural changes as they hit puberty. According to a study in the BBC, a team of researchers based in Nottingham, Newcastle and Edinburgh revealed that the dogs who hit their puberty take longer to respond to commands and are tougher to train.

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first published:December 10, 2020, 07:34 IST