DOGS AND PEOPLE PROCESS LANGUAGE THE SAME!
Sarah Knapton, science editor at The Telegraph, reported on a study by the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary. The researchers taught thirteen dogs to lie on a table for seven minutes while they listened to the voices of their owners on headphones. Mostly border collies and golden retrievers, the dogs had lived in the homes with their owners for a long period of time. While the sample size was only thirteen animals, the responses open the door to further humane animal studies with language. The Huffington Post reports that the researchers concluded that both dogs and humans use the left hemisphere of their brain to process the words themselves and the right side to figure out the tone of the voice. For instance, if a word is said in a neutral way by the owner, there is no brain activity; however, if the tone changes with the same word, neurons fire in the right side of the brain.
The study by the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary
In addition, our dogs can read our facial expressions. Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, DVM, states that dogs will even behave differently depending on the emotions on our faces. They pick up cues we throw out with our tone of voice, how we sit or stand, and even how we smell. MRIs of a dog’s brain shows that they respond to praise only if the voice and the face show happiness. But how can our dogs understand what we say? It comes from thousands of years of dogs and humans living together. Another study in Italy used food paired with photos of humans with different facial expressions. Depending on the photo, the heart rate of the dogs would get faster, they would turn their head toward the picture, and then would take longer to begin eating if the face showed an emotion. The scientists decided this was due to stress even when the faces were smiling because they were showing their teeth. Without other cues, smiling meant aggression. This combination of voice and facial expression lets your puppy know when you don’t really mean what you’re saying. Ever had a dog start licking your face and won’t stop even when you laugh when you tell them to? There you have it!
Dogs also have a language for each other that is completely different from the ones they use with you. Two males tearing up the fence to get at each other are completely different when the fence is no longer between them (says a woman who walks her dogs in a neighborhood of escape artists). They have vocalizations and types of barks that communicate various moods. Barking at play may sound the same to us as barking over a food bowl, but it’s completely different for the hounds. Humans don’t have tails to wag or ears to perk up that show friendly interest, but our facial expressions become pretty familiar to the family members with four legs.
YUP, YOU CAN SMELL SAD
I know that when I’m sad, my dogs come to comfort me. They even look sad, too. A study in Italy and Portugal found that pet dogs can sniff out happiness, fear, and sadness through chemo-signals, or the way your sweat smells. The researchers used pad with different sweat smells and were able to tell from the heart rates of the dogs the emotions they smelled when facing their owners who were just reading magazines. When combined with tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language, of course your dog understands you! When dogs smell fear, they will seek out their owners rather than strangers for reassurance. This is part of their relationship with you.
DON’T WORRY – BE HAPPY
Research has shown that when people are happy, they live longer and have fewer diseases. Although no study has been done yet that we know about, Dr. Becker thinks the same is true for your dog. If you’re happy, your dog is under less stress when she relates to your feelings and thus will reap the health benefits of your happiness. The motto of the story is, be happy for your health and the health of your dog.
Here is a short video on how our dogs read our emotions: