Dogs Can Recognize a Human Voice, Tone and Even Individual Words

A study has shown that dogs have a certain talent for languages that had only been associated with people before. Their skills for the recognition of human speech are far more complex than we have been aware of so far.  

The researchers claim that dogs and humans share what they call “language talent”. The results of their study prove that dogs can not only recognize words but also different people’s voices. The study was carried out by scientists from the University of Sussex and published in Biology Letters. 

The aim of the research was to find out if dogs can instinctively recognize the same word said by different people. More specifically, if they can recognize the same phonemes said by different people, no matter their accent and pronunciation. 

For the sake of the study to be objective, the studied dogs didn’t know any of the people – the speakers. This prevented them from having an undesired reaction to a familiar person which might distort the results. Neither were the dogs motivated by treats or attention for the same reason. 

They were recorded when reacting to the recordings of men’s and women’s voices saying words with similar sounds (e.g. had, hid, heard, heed). The words used for the study were carefully picked so they would not be related in any way to the typical commands. Therefore, the dogs couldn’t have any reaction to them because of their training. 

According to the study, the dogs were able to recognize the same word said by different speakers as well as the speakers themselves on the basis of the sound of their voices. Until then, the ability to recognize vowel sounds said by different people had been considered to be an ability only humans have. It is crucial for the ability to speak. Without this, we wouldn’t be able to recognize the same word said by different people.

The research has shown that despite previous assumptions, this spontaneous ability is not exclusive to humans. Therefore, dogs share a kind of “language talent” with us which implies that the speech perception might not be a special thing only humans can do as we used to think. 

We may not feel so weird when speaking to our dog companion as an equal speaker at home after this. The dog might understand us better than we could ever imagine. However, we still don’t have to pay attention to what we tell them – as of now at least. :)

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