Dogs often accompany their people for well over ten years. They are holiday companions, experience separations, and sometimes move from one country to another with their owners. The same happened to Border Collie Kun-Kun when his owner Laura Cuaya moved from Mexico to Hungary. New country, new language: Suddenly a familiar and melodious “Buenos Días!” became a strange, harder “Jò napot!”
Does my dog notice that a different language is being spoken around him and that other dogs in the dog park are reacting to various commands? the behavioral biologist then asked herself. This an interesting question that many adoptive parents of foreign dogs have asked themselves on several occasions.
The little prince in a brain scan
There has been no research on whether language recognition and discrimination is a purely human abilities. What is known, however, is that babies can do this even before they speak for themselves. To find out how dogs react to different languages, Cuaya and her colleagues from the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest trained 18 dogs of Spanish and Hungarian origin to lie quietly in the computer tomograph. For the now relaxed four-legged friends, it was time for a reading lesson: they listened to the story of the little prince through headphones, which was read to them in Hungarian, Spanish, and backward in fragments from both languages.
The result: Based on the brain activity in the primary auditory cortex, the researchers could not tell whether the dogs heard Spanish or Hungarian, but whether it was one of the languages or fragments of words from the texts read backward. Finer differences were observed in the secondary auditory cortex: mother tongue and foreign language elicited different activation patterns in the auditory cortex, especially in older animals. Scientists conclude that dogs can pick up and discriminate the auditory regularities of languages they encounter throughout their lives. Future studies should now show whether the centuries-long domestication of man’s best friends has made them particularly gifted speech recognizers.
Frequently Asked Question
Can dogs understand other languages?
For the first time, researchers have proven that not only humans can distinguish different languages: Even in dogs, the brain shows different activity patterns, depending on whether the four-legged friend is familiar with the language heard or not.
Can dogs recognize languages?
In the experiment, however, the dogs were not only able to recognize speech, but also to distinguish between them. The scans showed that those four-legged subjects who heard Spanish had a different response in the secondary auditory cortex than those who heard Hungarian.
How many languages do dogs understand?
The investigation finally found that the average was a whopping 89 words or short phrases that the dogs could understand. The clever animals are said to have even reacted to up to 215 words – quite a lot!
Can dogs understand German?
Many animals recognize patterns in human speech. Now it turns out that dogs are particularly good at it. A new study in the journal NeuroImage suggests they can distinguish familiar language from other sound sequences.
What words does a dog understand?
Apart from the learned words such as “sit”, “fine” or “here” the four-legged friend does not understand our language literally, but he hears whether we are angry or happy. In 2016, researchers published the results of a study involving 13 dogs.
Can a dog think?
Dogs are intelligent animals that like to live in packs, communicate with us in quite sophisticated ways, and seem capable of complex thinking. The dog’s brain isn’t all that different from the human brain.
How does a dog show gratitude?
When your dog jumps up and down, does a happy dance, and wags its tail, it shows its boundless happiness. He loves you! Licking your hands, barking, and squeaking can also be a sign of how much your four-legged friend missed his loved one.
Can a dog watch TV?
In general, pets like dogs and cats can watch TV. However, you can only expect a reaction if the television pictures were taken from a perspective you are familiar with. It is also important that things relevant to four-legged friends, such as conspecifics, are shown.