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Report finds dogs understand what owners are saying

Wednesday August 31st 2016

Man's best friend really does understand what you are saying, new research finds.

Scientists in Hungary scanned the brains of dogs as they were listening to their trainer speaking to determine which parts of the brain they were using.

Their investigation finds that dogs process words with the left hemisphere, while intonation is processed with the right hemisphere - just like humans.

The dogs only register that they were being praised if the words and intonation are positive. Meaningless words spoken in an encouraging voice, or meaningful words in a neutral tone, do not have the same effect.

"Dog brains care about both what we say and how we say it," said lead researcher Attila Andics, a neuroscientist at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest. "Praise can work as a reward only if both word meaning and intonation match."

Mr Andics says the findings suggest the mental ability to process language evolved earlier than previously believed and that what sets humans apart from other species is the invention of words.

He added that while other species probably have the mental ability to understand language like dogs, their lack of interest in human speech makes it difficult to test.

Dogs have socialised with humans for thousands of years, meaning they are more attentive to what people say to them and how, he said.

Copyright Press Association 2016