How does your dog’s brain process what you say?

dog's brain

Learn what’s going on in your dog’s mind when you talk to him.

As we talk to our dogs, both our words (what we say) and the intonation (how we say them) carry information for the canine brain. When we say “sit”, our dogs sit down. When we praise them with a high-toned voice, they tend to notice our positive intent. But we know very little about what’s going on in their brains during these interactions.

Thanks to some Hungarian researchers, we now have a little more information. The scientists used an fMRI machine to measure a group of dogs’ brain activity. The dogs, who were awake throughout the study, listened to known praise words such as:


and unknown neutral words, including:

“SUCH”, “AS”, “IF”, “YET”.

The results, reported in Nature, revealed that dog brains, like ours, process speech hierarchically, with intonation first, then known words.

The words were spoken with both praising and neutral intonations.

Interestingly, older dogs distinguished words less often than younger dogs.