The dog is man’s best friend, and they have been side by side for thousands of years. Indeed, earliest records of domesticated dogs stem from the Stone Age. These days puppies are available and actually bred by professional kennels like Douglas Hall Kennels offering puppies to anywhere across the globe. Scientists believe they now understand what lies at the heart of this relationship, being that dogs actually understand their masters.
The discovery has shown that dogs are able to process language in a way that is similar to how humans do it. They recognise spoken words, which are combinations of consonants and vowels, and turn these into commands. This is nothing new, of course, but it seems that dogs also have an understanding of true communication, picking up on intonation, emotional tone and changes in volume. These are essential elements of spoken language.
Scientists at Sussex University tested how language, in all its elements, goes through each part of the brain. Humans have what is known as a “hemispheric bias”, which means that certain parts of communication are picked up by the right side of the brain, and others by the left. Tests now suggest that dogs do the same.
In the test, 25 dogs were placed with a speaker on either side of them, through which they could hear various commands. If a dog would turn their left ear, then the right side of their brain was working and vice-versa. If the command was emotionless and flat, dogs would favour their right ear. This means they don’t listen to the intonation, but rather to the command. However, if the intonation suggested emotion, the dogs would use their left ear. This means that dogs use different parts of their brain, just like we do. It is believed that this is why dogs can be trained so well.
Head of the study was Dr. David Reby. He stated that the results demonstrate that dogs are able to process communication across both hemispheres in the brain, just as humans do. Co-writer Victoria Ratcliffe added that it is not clear how dogs actually understand the information delivered in communication, but they clearly react to the different components of language and use different areas of their brain for this.
The research paper was published in the Current Biology journal. The conclusion was that it may be an indicator of convergent evolution, with dogs adapting to human communication during the process of domestication, and that this is what has made them such popular companions.