Do dogs understand human speech? The neighborhood “cat lady” and that lonely woman next door who talks to her dog may not be as crazy as you think. Dogs, can indeed understand human languages.
According to a new study just published in the journal Current Biology, domesticated dogs distinguish emotions from human speech but the content too. Researchers at the University of Sussex in England have discovered that dogs are capable of comprehending both subjective components of speech, such as emotional content and intonation, as well as words themselves.
The research team conducted an experiment using 250 of man’s best friends. They played a sound bite of human speech to the left and right side of each animal. This was done because dogs send information heard by the right ear to the left side of the brain and vice-versa.
The study revealed that dogs process human speech in one hemisphere of the brain, and additional information in the other. Prior experiments noted this same trend when dogs process what they hear from other dogs.
Additionally, dogs use different parts of their brains to process the content and the emotion behind human speech. Dogs actually think about human speech and language in an attempt to understand what humans are saying so that they might respond appropriately.
Victoria Ratcliffe study co-author from the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex said that canines pay attention not just to the identity of the speaker and how something is said but also what is said.
Ratcliffe concluded: “While we cannot say how much or how dogs do understand information from human speech, we can say that dogs respond well to verbal information as elements related to the person talking and these components seem to be processed in different regions of their brains.”
Dogs Understand When Humans ‘Speak’