"The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's." – Mark Twain, Letter to W D Howells, 4/2/1899

It may be His Master’s Voice – but is it the tone or is it the words?

Paws for Thought

cc73de7c-eec7-4b1a-b366-f12fa46665d9.Large_Many dog owners (particularly those who have particularly clever breeds like Border Collies) swear their dogs understand words. Others have always argued that dogs are really responding to tone of voice and the subtlest of body language signals.

Tia Ghose in Live Sciencereports that it may be both. ‘Man’s best friend not only hears the meaning of human speech, but also perceives the emotion behind it’. Because dogs are attuned to people’s posture, gaze and other forms of nonverbal communication, this makes it tricky to figure out just what words they do understand.

Victoria Ratcliffe with Dr. David Reby at Sussex University did some research. They brought 250 pet dogs of many different breeds into their lab. The dogs were placed in a room with speakers on either side of their heads.

The sound that a dog hears in its right ear is processed mainly in the left hemisphere…

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