Tag: Elise Morea

Speaking growls!

No better way to follow yesterday’s post.

Yesterday, I shared an article that had appeared on the Care2 site on the topic of the latest scientific inquiries into how dogs understand what we humans say. That had originally been published in September of 2015.

Published just three days ago, again via the Care2 site, was another article about the language of communication between our beloved dogs and us.

Here is is:


Humans Can Understand Dogs by the Sound of Their Growls

By: Elise Moreau May 27, 2017

About Elise Follow Elise at @elisem0reau

Dogs and humans certainly share a special bond. Previous research has shown that dogs in fact do understand what we’re saying and that they also try to figure out what we’re thinking by taking on our perspectives. Now, there’s evidence that humans can understand dogs too — by the sounds they make when they growl.

In this study, recordings of three different types of dog growls were taken from 18 different dogs of various breeds and sizes. They included aggressive guarding growls that were triggered when other dogs approached the growling dogs’ food, playful growls during a game of tug-of-war between dogs and threatened growls from dogs that were approached by strangers.

The guarding growls were typically longer and more drawn out than the playful growls, which were were shorter and more repetitive. The guarding growls could be differentiated from the threatened growls by their pitch and loudness, with the guarding growls having a lower and more intense pitch so that it sounded like it was coming from a bigger dog.

Forty participants were recruited to interpret the dog growls by listening to two sets of the recordings. For the first set, they were asked to judge the emotion behind each growl using a scale that measured the degree of aggressiveness, fear, sadness, happiness, and playfulness that they could pick up on. For the second set, they were asked to choose whether the dog growls came from a dog that was guarding food, playing, or feeling threatened.

It turns out that people can interpret dog growls accurately more often than not. The participants had a 63-percent overall accuracy rate for interpreting the dog growls. Playful growls were easiest to identify at an 81-percent accuracy rate while guarding growls had an accuracy rate of 60 percent followed by threatened growls at 50 percent.

The results suggest that humans are pretty good at interpreting dog growls in a broader context given that it was much easier to identify the playful growls from the other two. The guarding growls and the threatened growls both share displays of aggression, which could explain why it was a little more difficult for the participants to accurately identify them.

What’s even more interesting is that women and people who were already dog owners showed higher accuracy rates of identifying the growls. The researchers pointed out that women are known to have higher emotional sensitivity, which may help explain why their interpretations were more accurate. Likewise, dog owners probably used their experience to identify the growls, suggesting that people can be trained to get better at learning to understand dogs.

The researchers say that learning to identify the differences in dog growls could help reduce aggression in dogs as well as improve their behavior. So whether you’re a dog owner yourself or know someone who owns a dog, it might be an interesting experiment to tune in to the subtle sounds of their growls to see if you can understand what they’re trying to communicate.

Want to know more about what your dog’s growling means? Here’s some extra information on how to interpret your dog’s growls.


That last link did provide more valuable information for us dog lovers.

I republished it last August but it will certainly stand being shared with you again. Ergo, I will repeat that post from last year tomorrow.

Can’t resist closing with a picture of a dog speaking growl found randomly on the web.

There’s a nice doggy!

Talking to one’s dog!

Are you a dog owner? Then here’s something else that you gain from your wonderful friend.

I was rather short on time yesterday so apologies for cutting my introduction to a minimum. But you will still love this item that appeared on the Care2 site three days ago.


People Who Talk to Their Pets Are Actually Quite Intelligent

If you’ve ever owned a pet, you’ve probably talked to it at one point or another. And even though you may have been fully aware that your pet couldn’t talk back or even really comprehend what you were saying, you still did it anyway.

Why do we do this? Why do we talk to our pets like human friends when we know their little minds just aren’t built to think or feel the same way we do?

When we talk to our pets, we subconsciously create a human-like bond in our own minds with non-human creatures. We’re built for connection — and we feel more connected to things when we recognize that they’re just like us.

Talking to animals (and even to inanimate objects, such as house plants) is called anthropomorphism. We usually call it “cute” when kids do it, but when adults do it, we tend to view it as a little weird and immature.

According to behavioral science professor at the University of Chicago and anthropomorphism expert Nicholas Epley, talking to animals and objects is actually a sign of intelligent social cognition. Humans are very social creatures, so our brains are wired to see faces and perceive minds everywhere.

Epley explains that we anthropomorphize the things that we love as opposed to the things that we hate. The more we like something, the more likely we are to want to engage with its mind — even if it doesn’t actually have a mind.

In a 2011 study where a group of participants were shown photos of baby animals and adult animals, most admitted to liking the baby animals better and were more likely to anthropomorphize them. If the participants could own one of the baby animals, they said that they would name it, talk to it and refer to it by its appropriate gender pronoun.

The most common way we anthropomorphize animals and objects is by giving them names, but it can apply to character traits, too. For example, a person may describe their cat as “sassy” or their car as a “rickety old man.” These human-like character traits given to non-human things reflect our relationship with them and perhaps even symbolize extensions of ourselves.

Anthropomorphizing only benefits us when inanimate objects are involved, but when it comes to anthropomorphizing domesticated animals like dogs and cats, both ourselves and our pets can benefit. Since these animals evolved over thousands of years to become human companions, they are biologically designed to bond with us.

Studies have shown that when we talk to dogs, they can distinguish between the meaning of the words and the emotional cues we give them. Cats may not be as responsive to human language as dogs are, but they do have the ability to recognize their owners’ voices and they also have 16 different types of vocalizations they use to communicate.

So you can let go of the widely held belief that talking to your pet, your houseplants, your car or anything else is childish or even a little bit crazy. From a scientific viewpoint, it turns out that quite the opposite is true.


Let me close by reminding all you good people of yet another wonderful aspect of the relationship between humans and dogs. In that we all know the dog evolved from the grey wolf. But had you pondered on the fact that wolves don’t bark! Yes, they howl but they do not bark.

There is good science to underpin the reason why dogs evolved barking; to have a means of communicating with us humans.

Every person who has a dog in their life will instinctively understand the meaning of most, if not all, of the barks their dog utters.

Selective hearing!

Dogs very quickly learn the system!

We have two dogs that are delightfully obedient, but with an over-rider; they choose whether to be responsive to the ‘requests’ from Jean and me.

Those two dogs are Oliver and Brandy.

Oliver sleeping in front of the wood-stove yesterday morning. (February 18th, 2015.)
Oliver sleeping in front of the wood-stove yesterday morning. (February 18th, 2015.)
Jean and Brandy at our local yard sale last weekend. (June 29th, 2016)
Jean and Brandy at our local yard sale last weekend. (June 29th, 2016)

It’s so easy to see each of them listening to a request from us and deciding whether or not to oblige us at that moment.

So when I came across a recent article over on the Care2 website about dogs deciding what are or are not valuable instructions from their human carers it really struck a chord with me. Read it below and I bet many of you will know exactly what I mean.


Dogs Are Smart Enough to Know When to Ignore Useless Directions

1392529-largeBy: Elise Morea October 29, 2016

About Elise Follow Elise at @elisem0reau

Dogs are pretty smart, but they’re still pretty clueless enough that we’re able have a good laugh at their reactions to certain things every so often. Whether it’s confusion over a ball that was never thrown or fear of a strange looking photograph sitting on the fireplace mantel, dog brains definitely see and understand the world in a way that can be pretty amusing to us.

According to recent research from Yale University’s Canine Cognition Center, it turns out that dogs can learn to pick up on the uselessness of their owners’ orders or directions so that they can disregard them altogether. In fact, they’re even less likely to follow them than children.

Researchers gathered 40 dogs of different breeds and examined their behavior in some problem solving experiments to see whether they could differentiate between helpful and useless directions. A treat was placed inside of a clear puzzle box with a red lid that the dogs had to open to get their reward.

The dogs were shown how to solve the puzzle box, which had a lever attached to it that could be pushed. Although the lever step was shown in the demonstration, it was actually completely unnecessary and didn’t serve any purpose at all to help open the box. The dogs really only needed to lift the lid to get to their treat.

 The researchers left the room while the dogs worked on the puzzle to make sure they would actually try to solve it on their own rather than just follow orders from people. All of the dogs spent several rounds trying to figure out the puzzle to get to their treat, eventually figuring out that they didn’t need to do anything with the lever after all and that all they needed to do was lift the lid. By the end, the dogs were completely ignoring the lever.

The results suggest that dogs learn on an individual level as opposed to humans who imitate each other when trying to learn. The study was inspired by a previous study that involved observing children as they solved puzzles.

Unlike the dogs, the children didn’t stop to think about how the puzzle might be solved differently and more effectively from what was demonstrated, instead repeating what they were shown to do again and again. Even when the children raced to finish solving the puzzle, they still repeated all the unnecessary steps.

Researchers described the children’s problem solving as ”overimitation,” which may be a unique aspect of how humans learn. Dogs and humans are both very social, but dogs are clearly independent problem solvers while children are natural copycats. Children seem to find it instinctive to limit problem solving because they have so much to learn.

Regardless of whether you have a dog, children, or both, these findings give us the opportunity to notice and appreciate their unique learning styles. From a very young age, children will often start mimicking their parents behaviors whether it serves them as an independent human being or not, offering parents all the more reason to be extra conscious of their own behaviors.

Your dog, of course, might just figure out your trickery after falling for a few fake throws of his favorite toy or ball. Now you know that he’s his own kind of canine problem-solving genius!


I think I need to be a bit more careful what I discuss in front of our dogs!