Dog owners who like to talk to their beloved Fido can rest assured that their pooch may actually understand what they are trying to say, according to a new study.
Moreover, when dogs listen to someone talking, they may use brain regions that are equivalent to those that humans use to understand what others say, the researchers found.
In other words, the new study shows that the brain mechanisms involved in the process of understanding human speech are similar in dogs and humans, said study co-author Attila Andics, a neuroscientist at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary. This means that the brain mechanisms involved in understanding human speech are not unique to humans, he told Live Science.
To convey information through speech, people use both words and intonation, which is the way a person's voice rises and falls to express an emotion or meaning, such as praise or disapproval. Similarly, to understand what someone is trying to say, people have to pay attention to both their words and their intonation. [10 Things You Didn't Know About Dogs]
In the study, the researchers wanted to see whether dogs also pay attention to both words and intonation when trying to understand what a human is trying to say to them.
To conduct the study, the researchers looked at 13 dogs. The researchers measured the dogs' brain activity with a brain scanner while the dogs listened to recordings of their trainers speaking different combinations of words and intonations.
The researchers found that the dogs paid attention to both the words and intonation when trying to understand human speech, just as humans do when they try to understand human speech. This finding means that dogs may understand both the words and the intonation that humans use when they talk to dogs, the researchers said.
The brain scans also suggested that the dogs used the left parts of their brains while trying to understand words but used the right parts of their brains while trying to understand intonation, the researchers said. Similarly, humans use the left parts of their brains while trying to understand the meanings of words and the right parts of their brains while trying to understand intonation.
The new findings were published today (Aug. 30) in the journal Science.
Originally published on Live Science.