It's Not Just Intonation, Dogs Really Do Understand What You're Saying

Posted by Stacey Venzel
All photos via Eniko Kubinyi and Borbala Ferenczy

Every dog lover's dream has come true. A new study proves humans really can talk to dogs.

Make no bones about it: the domestic dog is intelligent.

Studies have long spoken of the IQ of man's best friend, from those who are trained hunters to the tiny lapdogs. Now, dog smarts and the bond they have with their humans is even more apparent thanks to a Hungarian study that reports dogs can understand us.

Thirteen family dogs that could sit still long enough for an MRI scan were suited up for the study. They were trained to remain motionless for seven minutes during which time their brain activity was monitored.

While in the scanner, a trainer spoke neutral and familiar, positive words in both boring and exciting tones. The study showed increased brain function when the familiar words were spoken, regardless of their intonation. But word and tonal processing were carried out in opposite hemispheres in the brain--coordinating with the same hemispheres humans use to process the two.

dog mri

When praised in a happy-go-lucky manner, the dog's brain lit up like a rave of traffic lights.

The conclusion from the study, as it pertains to dog training and care, is that a pooch is most excited when positive words are delivered in a positive tone.

Researchers believe this brain function is the result of selective breeding for certain traits like attention.

dog mri

Can cats understand us, too? Researchers think so. Language might not be as distinct to humans as we thought.

All photos via Eniko Kubinyi and Borbala Ferenczy

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