The science of understanding!

Science comes round to proving what many of us have suspected for years!

That is that dogs understand us a great deal better than was thought by the general population.

According to Statista there are a great many dog owners in the USA alone.

According to a pet owners survey, there were approximately 89.7 million dogs owned in the United States in 2017. This is an increase of over 20 million since the beginning of the survey period in 2000, when around 68 million dogs were owned in the United States.

Now not all of the owners will both adore their dogs and take an active interest in them.

But for those that do, the article that came out on Mother Nature Network was confirmation indeed.

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Your dog understands more than you think

By Mary Jo DiLonardo , December 4, 2019.

Researchers used to believe only humans could recognize the same vowel sounds spoken by different speakers. (Photo: ShotPrime Studio/Shutterstock)

When we make a road trip to visit my parents, Brodie always comes along for the ride. My mom and dad talk to my crazy border collie mix both in Italian and heavily accented English. “Sit” becomes “sitta” and they often ask him to “givva me your paw.”

Brodie looks at them intently and certainly appears to understand everything they say. It probably helps that they’re bribing him with homemade bread, but a new study finds that dogs understand human language better than we thought. Researchers found that dogs can understand when someone new is talking or when they hear a different word. The results were published in the journal Biology Letters.

For the study, researchers from the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom filmed 70 dogs of different breeds while they sat next to their owners, according to Science. They played audio recordings of men and women who the dogs had never heard speak before, and they used words that sounded very similar such as “had,” “hid” and “who’d.”

The words were chosen because they didn’t sound anything like common commands that the dogs were likely to have heard at home or during normal training.

More than a human thing

After listening to the recordings just one time, 48 of the dogs reacted either when a different speaker said the same word or when the same speaker said a different word, New Scientist reports. The other dogs didn’t respond in a noticeable way or were distracted.

Researchers looked for reactions like the dog’s ears moving forward, changing eye contact or shifting toward the speaker whenever they heard a change in a word or a speaker, as shown in the video above. They also noted how long the dogs paid attention. When they kept hearing the same word repeated over and over, their attention dropped.

“Until now, the spontaneous ability to recognize vowel sounds when spoken by different people was considered to be uniquely human,” lead researcher Holly Root-Gutteridge told the Press Association. “This research shows that, despite previous assumptions, this spontaneous ability is not uniquely human and that dogs share this linguistic talent, suggesting that speech perception may not be as special to humans as we previously thought.”

Researchers think the ability might be due to domestication, as dogs who are the most attentive to humans are the ones most likely to be used for breeding.

“I was surprised by how well some of the dogs responded to unfamiliar voices,” Root-Gutteridge told New Scientist. “It might mean that they comprehend more than we give them credit for.”

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That paragraph towards the end really spells it out. It is not uniquely human to recognise vowel sounds because our dogs share this talent for speech perception.

Just another remarkable fact about our nearest and dearest of friends; our dogs!

13 thoughts on “The science of understanding!

  1. Great video & story. Yes, they do understand more than we give them credit for. We had to spell certain words because our dogs knew what they meant.

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    1. They can be incredibly intelligent, Irene. Take GSDs for example. Their tracking skills are legendary. I temporarily lost Brandy this morning and took Cleo, our GSD, to help find him. Brandy had wandered up the creek!

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      1. You are right Paul. GSD’s are among the more intelligent ones and have a great nose and love to use it. Good that Cleo helped you to find Brandy 😀

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  2. You’re quite right Paul, dogs are very intelligent a fact far too often ignored. But I’d like to add that cat intelligence is also something we don’t think about enough. I have several and in their own ways they too demonstrate intelligent engagement. Nice post. 🙂

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