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Dogs and Their Understanding of Our Conversations with Them

Peter H. Eeg, DVM Poolesville Veterinary Clinic [email protected]

Plain and simple research has proven that dogs are able to hear voices in the same way that human beings do which allows them to pick up on acoustic (voice sounds) clues about our emotional state.

Published in the Cell Journal of Current Biology, researchers have discovered that dogs have a dedicated area in their brains for voices, just like people. This is likely an evolution-driven adaptation as the wolves that interacted with an early man some 18,000 years ago needed to have an understanding of the voice/sound inflections. This allowed them to determine which groups of humans were friendly to wolves and which were hunting the wolves. As a man and wolf's relationship matured into the human-canine bond, this adaptation became even more important to the expanded interactions

[tis important to note that Canis lupus (wolf) and Canis lupus familiaris (dog) have the exact same genetic coding. The sub-species identification and differentiation are therefore adaptative in origin.

The research team trained 11 dogs to lie motionless while fully awake in a fMRI brain scanner. This allowed the research team the ability to run the same neuroimaging experiment on the dogs and the human participants, Findings showed humans and dogs showed activity in the same location of the brain when verbal requests or commands were given. They also found that dogs responded more strongly to dogs, and humans to humans (except in the case of my wife and my dogs, nobody messes with her).

The lead researcher, Attila Atticus, indicated that dogs and humans share a similar social

environment. This produced similar brain mechanisms to process social information. This provides strong evidence that dogs understand much more of our language and sentence structure than we gave them credit for up to this point. So watch what you are saying when you don’t want your dog to know what is about to happen (like going to the veterinarian).

This goes a long way to explaining why humans and dogs have such a strong connection and how dogs are able to tune into the feelings of their owners so well and can navigate our social structure so easily.

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