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Fetch! Dogs May Understand Commands More Than You Think

Ever wonder just how much your dog really understands when you talk to him?

Ever wonder just how much Fido really understands when you talk to him? New research suggests your pooch processes human speech much the way he or she hears other dogs' barks and growls. That doesn't mean they know what you're saying, exactly, but at the very least they're listening attentively.

The experiment presented voice cues to dogs in both ears at the same time, then measured which way the dog turned its head. That theoretically indicates which hemisphere of the brain that voice is primarily being processed by. The University of Sussex researchers observed that a manner of speaking that emphasized the commands in a sentence ("Let's go for a WALK") was processed more in the left hemisphere, while emphasizing other words ("LET'S go for A walk") did the opposite. "Our results suggest that the processing of speech components in the dog's brain is divided between the two hemispheres in a way that is actually very similar to the way it is separated in the human brain," said University of Sussex psychologist David Reby.


—Devin Coldewey