Dog owners have been labelled as barking mad for years – claiming their pets understand what they are saying – but they may have been right all along.
Scientists have discovered that man’s best friend is able to identify when someone new is speaking, or when they are saying a new word.
Researchers from the University of Sussex looked at whether domestic dogs could also spontaneously recognise the same word when spoken by different people, including people they had not met before.
They filmed the reaction of dogs when they heard recordings of men and women speaking a set of short words that sound similar to each other, such as had, hid, heard and heed.
The dogs in the study were recorded hearing the same word said by different speakers, or the same speaker saying different words.
According to the results published in Biology Letters they were able to listen to different people saying the same word and recognise it as the same word, ignoring the differences between speakers.
The dogs also discriminated between unfamiliar people by the sound of their voice alone.
Dr Holly Root-Gutteridge, who led the research, said: Until now, the spontaneous ability to recognise vowel sounds when spoken by different people was considered to be uniquely human.
But many dog owners believe their dogs can learn a word from one person and recognise it when spoken by a second or third person.
We wanted to test if dogs can recognise the same phonemes – the little sounds that make up words – when spoken by different people, ignoring the differences in accent and pronunciation.
Researchers chose words that are not usually associated with commands, so the dogs’ reaction could not be due to training.
(c) Sky News 2019: Scientists may have proven what dog owners knew all along