We all are fascinated by the simple commands that our dogs have learned but imagine holding a conversation with your dog. Better still, picture at least watching your pet listen intently to every word and doing what you ask of him. Well, that has to remain one of your wild fantasies because sorry, but your dog doesn’t really understand you and probably never will. After all, evolution has gone on for centuries, so chances of the canines suddenly getting new comprehension abilities are slim. Here’s more regarding the new study as we also explore other similar and conflicting conclusions.
Dogs Cannot Tell the Difference between Almost Similar Words
If you have been gushing about how intelligent your dog is because he can follow simple commands like “sit” and “jump,” the researchers based in Eötvös Loránd University are here to burst your bubble. According to People Magazine, the findings of the study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal are that dogs do not understand speech the way humans do. Unlike humans that can tell the difference between “dog” and “dig,” our furry pets do not seem to tell apart words that almost sound similar.
The research involved recording certain words and testing the dog’s brain activity when they listen to the words. The canines’ brain activity demonstrated different reactions when listening to known words and different nonsense words. However, when the nonsense words were almost similar to basic instructions that dogs recognize, the brain activity remained unchanged. For instance, they could not tell the difference between “sit” and “sut” since the dogs processed both words as “sit.”
The lead researcher, Lilla Magyari, noted that the dogs could recognize the instructions they are used to even if they came from different people. She observed that the study proved that dogs listen to human speech but do not pay attention to all of the speech sounds. Lilla, however, added that maybe with further research, we can learn why canines are yet to recognize all speech sounds.
How Do Dogs Process Words
According to Business Insider (https://www.businessinsider.com/study-how-dogs-understand-human-languages-2018-10?IR=T), researchers at Emory University found out that dogs may be trainable and seem to understand basic commands. However, the canines do not comprehend the words as we humans do. The conclusion came after 12 dogs were trained by their owners for a month, daily for 10 minutes, to fetch a pig toy “piggie” or monkey toy “monkey. Similar to the study led by Lilla Maygari, this one co-authored by Ashley Prichard used differences in brain activity to watch how dogs process words.
The MRI scanner showed that the brain activity did not change when the owners held the toys and said their respective names. However, when the owners spoke gibberish, the dogs’ brain activity showed great neural activation. This reaction is very different from how humans react; we have more neural activation when we hear words we know. Even if the brain demonstrates great neural activation to words we are not familiar with, it is because we are trying to associate them with the words we know.
National Geographic reported of a study that showed that in some instances, dogs process words the same way as humans do. According to the article, canines process the sounds of spoken word in a hierarchy, just like we do. The older brain’s region, referred to as the subcortical region, analyzes the emotional component of a word. In contrast, the cortex, the brain’s newer region, processes the meaning of the word.
One ethologist based at the University of Sussex, David Reby, clarified that what we say and how we say it matters to a dog hence different reactions. If you want to encourage your dog to continue with what it so doing, then a sweet tone will work while a serious one is effective if you want your pet to stop. In this regard, dogs and humans are alike too.
Some Dogs are Better Communicators
While scientists have so far concluded that dogs do not understand our language, another person has proven that dogs only need the right training to communicate with us. According to HuffPost, Christina Hunger taught her dog, Stella, how to communicate in sentences and 29 different words. However, Stella does not speak the words; she uses a soundboard to communicate whatever she wants.
By pressing a certain button on the board, the corresponding word can be heard. Stella has mastered the soundboard and can even create phrases to say what she wants. Hunger is a speech pathologist who helps children learn and speak words; thus, she applied the same techniques she uses on kids to teach her dog communication skills. The speech pathologist revealed that she began teaching Stella in 2017 after noticing the dog was already good at vocalizations and making gestures.
Hunger even advised other dog owners who want their pets to be as good at communicating as Stella to talk to them and observe their gestures and vocalization, which can then be put into words. Consistent use of the specific words will help the dogs understand their meaning. Since they can’t talk, using a soundboard helps make communication better because the device can enable the creation of phrases.
Although Hunger said she managed to teach her dog 29 words, your dog has the potential to learn much more. According to HowStuffWorks, one psychologist, Stanley Coren, said that a trained dog could learn about 160 words, but it will take a lot of patience.
Stanley’s statement was proven right by a dog blamed Rico who had could understand 200 words. The dog’s comprehension was so impressive that even when new words were introduced into his vocabulary, he quickly registered them in his brain. His ability to retrieve the requested items, 70% of the time was an incredible score. Further, Rico proved that dogs have a great memory because a month later, he was still brought in and could remember items he had been asked to retrieve, 50% of the time.