Can Dogs Understand Human Language?

April 29, 2018

Dogs can often surprise us so much, we treat them like people. You might usually think the only thing they’d need is the ability to talk. They seem to understand us when we talk, and they obey many of our orders. Can they really understand human language?

Let’s find out the answer to this question and what the relevant studies say.

A study shows dogs can understand human language

Happy Bulldog

Sure enough you’ve brag about how well your dog understands you when you speak. Your friends might agree. Although, inside they think you’re pretty crazy. Well guess what? Now you have proof!

You’re not crazy. Dogs can actually understand human language. This is what a Hungarian study has shown.

To understand what were the tests conducted to come up with this conclusion, we need to learn about how the human brain works. When it comes to speech, the left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for processing the meaning of words and right hemisphere detects intonation.

Anyways, it seems humans are not the only creatures with a brain which works that way. Dogs use very similar mechanisms in their brains. The left hemisphere detects words, while the hemisphere detects intonation.

Regardless, dogs not being able to talk, can usually understand what we’re saying by relating words with objects and intonation.

For example, if you scold your dog by using a stern voice, your dog is able to detect the intonation. Right away they know this is not good. That’s why they might run and hide.

“Dogs can learn words that are relevant to them. Invariably those which are often used by their owners and directed at them. Words to praise them are one example”, says Anna Gábor, a researcher involved with the Eötvös Loránd University study in Hungary.

How was the study conducted?

Happy Bulldog

The study started by selecting 13 dogs and keeping them still while conducting a MRI. By doing so they saw each dog’s brain activity while listening to their masters’ neutral words or praises.  The dog owners changed the intonation each time.

In the study the researchers realized the dogs were using the left hemisphere of the brain. Remember, this hemisphere takes  charge of processing the meaning of words, unlike the right.

Furthermore, they noticed the brain’s reward system was activated when the dogs received a praise. This means a dog will react to stimuli like petting or food whenever the they hear words which relate to the situation.

This study won’t just strengthen the bond and communication between humans and dogs. The scientists who conducted the study believe this could be a step to understanding the origin of words.

According to the main Hungarian study author: “What makes words unique to humans is not our neural capacity, but our ingenuity of inventing and using them.”

So, you’re not completely crazy like your friends think. Talk to your dog. Praise and chat with him. As you can see, thanks to the light shed by this study, dogs can understand human language.

Yes, you were right. Your dog only lacks the ability to talk…