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What Do Dogs Hear When We Talk to Them?

Jan 16 2018 Read 1330 Times

Do you ever wonder if your precious pooch can understand your declarations of love? Well, recent studies suggest that younger puppies respond positively to dog-directed speech and it may even help them learn words. Read on as we take a look at how dogs interpret language.

Pet-parents

The science behind human-pet relationships have been a mystery for years. But recent studies suggest that adult women show similar brain activation when looking at a picture of their dog and their children. Similar patterns of social cognition, emotion and affiliation are commonalities amongst pet parents and mothers.

It’s no shock that over 80% of pet owners see themselves as ‘pet-parents’. Therefore, when speaking to dogs, people are more likely to imitate a similar speaking pattern to infant-directed speech. This includes a higher pitch and slower tempo. Infants and children respond positively to this form of speech as it holds their attention and promotes language learning. Now science says that younger dogs and puppies may have a comparable reaction.

Doggy research

Animal behaviourists highlight that people care for their dogs like human infants and “part of their success in human environments” is to maintain mutual understanding and empathy. Therefore, the acoustics of speech are important when communicating with your pet. Bioacousticians at the University of Lyon in Saint Etienne have gone a step further and have launched research into how dogs react to human speech.

The scientists recorded 30 women reciting a script, first in front of a photograph of a pup and then to a person. When comparing the data, they found that unsurprisingly the women spoke in high-pitched tones when looking at the picture of the dog, but weirdly not the person.

After replaying the recordings, 9 out of the 10 puppies had a strong reaction to the speaker - barking and running around. Scientists claim that this type of dog-directed speech corresponds to “an invitation to play”.

Can’t teach an old dog new tricks

However, scientists found that older dogs were less interested in the cooing sounds of the women and were not as responsive as the younger pets. This may indicate that older dogs respond more to familiar voices, an actual person rather than a recording, or simply they were not interested in play.

Further research needs to be done to know whether dogs have an innate response to specific dog-directed speech, but the jury is in that dogs respond proactively to high-pitched invitations to play. As if we needed anymore reason to play with our dogs!

While research into acoustics is based more on vibrations, the particles themselves can tell us a lot about the world we live in. ‘Fast Analysis of Particle Shape and Size with Dynamic Image Analysis’ explores how we can gain more information when analysing particles.

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