CNN

Sorry, folks — your dog doesn’t really know what you’re talking about

Dec 9, 2020, 5:34 AM
Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest measured the brain activity of family dogs u...
Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest measured the brain activity of family dogs using a technique called electroencephalography, which involved taping electrodes to the animals' heads. Credit: Vivien Reicher

    (CNN) — You might think your dog understands every word you say to him — but chances are he isn’t hanging on your every word, a new study has found.

In spite of their “human-like” auditory capabilities for interpreting speech sounds, dogs do not hear the subtle differences between words in the way that humans do, a team of researchers has found.

Words are made up of speech sounds, which, if changed, alter the entire meaning — for example, “dog” can turn to “dig.”

Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest measured the brain activity of family dogs using a technique called electroencephalography, which involved taping electrodes to the animals’ heads.

The researchers played the dogs recorded instruction words they knew (such as “sit”), similar but nonsense words (“sut”), and then, very different nonsense words (“bep”).

Experts found that dogs, who had not been specifically trained for the experiment, could quickly and clearly tell the difference between the known instruction words and the very different nonsense words.

“The brain activity is different when they listen to the instructions, which they know, and to the very different nonsense words, which means that dogs recognize these words,” lead study author Lilla Magyari told CNN.

However, the animals did not pay attention to the small differences between known words and similar-sounding nonsense words. Instead, the canine study subjects processed them as the same word, Magyari, a postdoctoral researcher at the department of ethology at Eötvös Loránd University, told CNN.

Dogs are renowned for their auditory capacity and their ability to hear words and sounds well, Magyari said, and they are able to differentiate speech sounds.

“But it seems like they don’t really pay attention to all of the speech sounds,” she said, adding that further research could explain why.

“They may just not realize that all details, the speech sounds, are really important in human speech. If you think of a normal dog: That dog is able to learn only a few instructions in its life,” she said.

While our canine companions may not recognize all the nuances, Magyari said that the study also confirmed that dogs actually listen to human speech, as suggested by previous studies — and don’t just respond to familiar humans or body language.

“It really shows that dogs can differentiate the words that they know from nonsense words,” she said, noting that family dogs registered brain activity even when listening to instruction words delivered by an unfamiliar voice, delivered through a speaker.

The findings were published in the Royal Society Open Science journal on Tuesday.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Today’s Top Stories

CNN

In this image taken from NASA video, a solar panel is unfolded at the International Space Station, ...
Ashley Strickland, CNN

Astronauts will give the space station a power boost during Saturday spacewalk

The International Space Station will receive a power boost during a spacewalk on Saturday, as NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio install a solar array outside the floating laboratory.
9 hours ago
The Air Force is set to unveil the newest stealth bomber aircraft on Dec. 2. Photo credit: Northrop...
Haley Britzky and Ellie Kaufman, CNN

Air Force unveils newest stealth bomber aircraft

The newest stealth bomber was unveiled on Friday in California.
1 day ago
lake effect snow really did a number on the wasatch front this morning...
Jennifer Gray, CNN meteorologist

Back-to-back winter storms bring heavy snow, critical fire conditions to the West

Two winter storms in less than a week will bring more than a foot of snow to the mountains, wind gusts of over 70 mph leading to the possibility of a wall of dust and the high danger of fire to the central and western US.
1 day ago
Help wanted sign is displayed in Deerfield, Ill., Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.  The number of availab...
Alicia Wallace, CNN Business

US economy added a robust 263,000 jobs in November

The unemployment rate held steady at 3.7%, according to the latest monthly jobs snapshot from the Labor Department, released Friday morning.
1 day ago
Florida Guardsmen from the 3rd Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, carry a shoulder mo...
Jennifer Hansler, CNN

US approves $380 million missile sale to Finland

The U.S. approved a second missile sale to Finland just days apart.
1 day ago
lindsay lohan is pictured in a Santa outfit pouring milk into a glass of pepsi...
Danielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN Business

Pepsi wants you to drink soda mixed with milk this holiday season

To make the campaign even trendier, Pepsi tapped Lindsay Lohan, star of the Netflix Christmas movie "Falling for Christmas," to promote the combination.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Sorry, folks — your dog doesn’t really know what you’re talking about