I talk to my dogs so much I even wrote a post about it, just to remember those special moments and chit-chats we had. The irony of our daily conversations is in the fact that, with a few exceptions, I hardly ever talk to people, but I always talk to dogs… my dogs, any dogs… And somewhere in my head I always remember reading about the benefits of not talking to dogs because they would find us practically annoying. Yet I can’t help it, I simply can not keep quiet in a presence of a dog I adore.
To my relief, a new study popped up the other day. A group of Hungarian researches took 12 dogs aged between 2-10 years, 8 males and 4 females including 6 border collies, 5 golden retrievers, and a German shepherd (at this point I started singing “….and a partridge in a pear tree…) and nicely asked them to lie quietly in fMRI machine whilst listening to a few spoken words delivered in various combinations by the same person.
Some of these words were praise words and others – neutral. The scientist discovered that the dogs did not simply respond to human speech – they reacted differently to the emotional tone of the words and the words they recognised meaning that their brains processed the information in exactly same way as humans’. Interestingly, the emotional tone of the voice played an important role, especially in older participants.
“To dogs, communicating effectively with humans and associating meanings to words is highly relevant”, wrote the scientists. Even though more research is needed, it was clear that certain words were more than just a tone for the dogs, meaning that the dogs can somehow process the speech separately from acoustic pitch, following the original ancient path of speech evolution in humans.
They may not be able to engage in a proper discussion with us, but dogs most definitely listen, understand and respond to our ramble – both physically and emotionally. Just like humans.
I guess this gives me a free path to continue talking to my pups, any time, anywhere…