Science Says Dogs Really Do Understand What People Say To Them

Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for the American Kennel Club

You may be right if you think your dog understands more than just the commands you give.

A study by scientists in the UK has found that puppies understand what we say, how we say it and who is saying it.

The researchers found that the brain of dogs is able to process different commands with the left hemisphere focussing on the meaning of a common command and the right hemisphere on tone.

A report in the journal Current Biology provides some of the first evidence of how dogs differentiate and process the various components of human speech.

“Although we cannot say how much or in what way dogs understand information in speech from our study, we can say that dogs react to both verbal and speaker-related information and that these components appear to be processed in different areas of the dog’s brain,” says Victoria Ratcliffe of the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex.

The researcher doesn’t mean that dogs actually understand everything humans might say or that they have a human-like ability of language.

Ratcliffe says the results support the idea that canine companions are paying attention “not only to who we are and how we say things, but also to what we say”.

As many dog owners will have observed, dogs may not always understand, or perhaps sometime choose not to hear, but they really do look like they are listening.

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