According to science dogs indeed do understand some of the words we are saying.
In a world-first experiment, academics in Hungary trained 13 dogs to voluntarily lay in an MRI scanner to monitor what happened in their brain when the researchers spoke to them.
What they discovered was that the dogs process language in their brain in a similar way humans do. The right side processes emotion while the left side processes meaning.
And the best thing is – they also know when we are praising them. Only when both sides of the brain agreed they were hearing praise – the dog were truly happy.
This study proved that dogs have an idea of what the specific sounds they are hearing means.
Lead researcher Dr Attila Andics, of Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, said: “During speech processing, there is a well-known distribution of labour in the human brain. It is mainly the left hemisphere’s job to process word meaning, and the right hemisphere’s job to process intonation. The human brain not only separately analyses what we say and how we say it, but also integrates the two types of information, to arrive at a unified meaning. Our findings suggest that dogs can also do all that, and they use very similar brain mechanisms.”
When during the study researchers spoke to the dogs with words like “good boy” or similar words that were said in a praising intonation both of their brain hemispheres were activated.
The scans showed the dogs left brain tended to be activated when they heard words that were meaningful to them. This did not happen when they heard words they did not understand or words said in an neutral manner. The right hemisphere activated only when they heard a praising intonation.