A new study has examined what happens to the brains of dogs if they are exposed to language, and the results help explain the lack of communication we encounter from time to time with our canines. The research question was: Can dogs say words they have already learned from similar-sounding nonsense terms and words that sound very different phonetically?
Using specific brain activity measurements, known as event-related potential, dogs’ responses to language can be recorded and measured in a non-invasive method. The dogs remain in a state of alertness during the study and don’t require any special training to take part. The electrodes placed on the dogs’ heads permit researchers to track the brain’s activity related to the sounds of words or nonsense.
The experience helped dogs perform better in these tests. The more familiar they were with a language they knew, the better they could recognize the word. This is in line with what Dr. John Pilley says: “Learning builds upon learning,”–which is relevant in teaching university students and instructing the Border Collie, Chaser, to recognize over 1,000 toys.
Dog Brains Are a Lot Like Ours
Leader of the study group and dog love Attila Andics began studying canines to understand better how mammalian brains process language.
Training dogs to remain still in a magnetic resonance (fMRI) scanner was not easy. It took a long time for dog trainers to work their magic on 13 pets living in Hungary six border collies, four golden retrievers, one German shepherd, and one Chinese crest.
“The most difficult thing was convincing them that they must lie still. When they understood that we meant to be completely still, the experiment went great,” says Andics, an ethnologist of Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, Hungary. (See “Can Dogs Feel Our Emotions? Yawn Study Suggests Yes.”)
How and What Together
Similar to many opposing theories, There is a possibility that the truth lies between the two. Dogs can use both the left and right sides of their brains. They can read our body language and hear our tone. They use this information to make sense of our body language and tone.
In a different study using MRI screening, dogs’ right and left parts of its brain stimulated when the researcher used the words “good boy” in a praising tone. The exact words spoken in a neutral voice stimulated only the left portion of the brain. The dog wasn’t always able to grasp what was being said. In addition, when dogs were exposed to random words such as “however” in a sweet tone the right side of their brains was engaged, but the left side was not. Scientists have concluded that dogs learn better when both brains are working simultaneously. Also, how words are spoken and used is crucial to comprehend.
For us to study dogs, it is an ideal opportunity to think about these issues. Dogs have essential executive functions. These are measured through a variety such as asking owners about their dogs’ capacity to regulate their behavior and behavioral tests that test dogs’ abilities to control.
In addition, we regularly expose dogs to human language, but research suggests that dogs can recognize different words and react to specific words. For instance, three dogs – Border collies Chaser and Rico and one Yorkshire Terrier named Bailey have learned to respond to more than 1,000 100, 200, and 200 words in turn.
Dogs and dogs communicate.
Studies with infants of human origin offer a method of systematically and consistently evaluating word-based responses in large numbers of dogs. One of the most frequently used measurements of young infants’ language capabilities is the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory, an inventory of parents’ words that children respond to consistently. The number of words picked in the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Inventory predicts children’s language development many years later.
In the year 2015, I started an association along with psychology professor Catherine Reeve, at the time a doctoral student who was studying dogs’ ability to detect scent. Our goal was to design an equivalent measure of vocabulary to use by dog owners. This we could use to study the connections between executive and language functions.
It’s also a question of training. Or is it something else?
It’s pretty incredible. However, there is no lack of debate. Do dogs comprehend words as humans do, or are they simply well-trained? Some researchers aren’t sure if dogs really “fast map”; dogs could do something that appears to be “fast mapping” from the outside. It appears that these dogs are aware of the world and its actions.
Patricia McConnell, Ph.D., Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, agrees. “Understanding requires sharing the same source of reference — that is, we share the same concept of an object or an action. For certain dogs, it appears that they have.” Pilley concurs. “When an object, such as a toy, is held before Chaser and a verbal label is given to that object, Chaser understands that the verbal label refers to that object.”
In her novel Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz reminds us that even if they are the only dogs with the ability to use language in this way, it is possible to recognize that the “dog’s cognitive equipment is good enough to understand language in the right context.” This research shows what’s possible, not necessarily the way that dogs do daily.
What can I say to my dog?
Knowing how our dogs communicate with us will make us more adept at communicating with them. Dogs can pick up the same non-verbal signals that they provide to us. Dogs can easily recognize eye movements, hand movements, and head tilts. When a dog has learned the motions, it is time to start speaking the command that goes with the movement. With practice and trial, you’ll be able to determine the commands your dog is picking up to the highest level and constantly improve your communication flow.
So What Was Bunny Doing?
Let’s connect this all up and connect it to Bunny. The owner of Bunny explained to her that she didn’t develop her skills on her own. Instead, the owner would push the button that read ‘outside and then say the word aloud before letting Bunny go out. After a few times, Bunny learned that this button meant she was able to go outside.
This implies that Bunny has created an associative connection with an earphone sound triggered by a specific button and has learned that it is a sign to leave the house. A few of her more complex sentences are because of similar associations, and learning the act of pressing buttons in a sequence will result in a specific result. This doesn’t necessarily mean she knows the language of our society or can create sentences with words she is familiar with. This is an automatic reaction using her memory of associations.