A recent study found that dogs probably don’t quite understand everything you tell them.
Despite their ability to interpret speech sounds, dogs cannot distinguish subtle differences between words in the way humans do, a team of researchers found.
Namely, words consist of sounds, which if they change, change the whole meaning of the word. For example, the English word “dog” can be converted to “dig,” but dogs are unlikely to discern it.
Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest measured the brain activity of domestic dogs using a technique called electroencephalography. They taped electrodes to the dogs’ heads and played familiar words like “sit”, but also some meaningless words that only sounded similar to the words these dogs know.
They found that dogs could recognize the difference between the words they knew and meaningless words that were very different from the words they knew. However, they did not notice the difference between the words they knew and the meaningless words that differed only slightly from the familiar ones. When they heard these similar but meaningless words, the dogs would act as if they heard those they knew.
Dogs are known for their ability to hear words and sound well and can distinguish some speech sounds, scientists from Budapest point out, but they do not seem to be able to distinguish everything.
“They don’t really seem to pay attention to all the sounds. They may just not realize that all the details, or sounds, are really important in human speech. If you consider a ‘normal’ dog, that dog can only learn a few in his life. instructions”said study lead author Lilla Magyari.
However, don’t let this disappoint you.
Although dogs may not recognize all the nuances, Magyari points out that the study confirmed that they do listen to human speech and do not always react only to what they know.
“This really shows that dogs can distinguish words they know from some completely meaningless words,” the scientist said, noting that they registered brain activity in family dogs even when they listened to an unknown voice pronounce words they knew.