Dogs Have Some Understanding of Words, Can Differentiate Between New and Familiar Words

Dogs Have Some Understanding of Words, Can Differentiate Between New and Familiar Words

A study finds dogs do have some understanding of words they have been taught and can differentiate between words they have heard before from those they have not.

Scientists at Emory University published one of the first studies that uses brain imaging to learn more about how dogs process words they have been taught to associate with objects.

In the study, 12 dogs were trained by their owners to retrieve two different objects based on the objects’ names. Later the dog would lay in a functional MRI scanner while his or her owner stood in front of it. The owner would say the name of one of the toys, then show the dog the corresponding toy. Then, the owner would speak gibberish words and show the dog a new, unfamiliar object.

The results showed greater activation in auditory regions of the brain to the fake words compared with the trained words.

Researchers say dogs may show an increased neural activation to new words because they feel their owners want them to understand what they are saying and want to please their owners.

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