Can’t help talking to your dog? It turns out they really do understand some of what we are saying, processing both words and intonation to work out what we mean.
Attila Andics, a neuroscientist at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, Hungary, and her team scanned the brains of dogs while they were listening to their trainer speaking. They found that, just like us, dogs use the left hemisphere of their brains to process words, while the intonation of speech is processed by the right hemisphere.
The team tested the dogs by saying different words with various intonations – for example, a meaningless word spoken in an encouraging voice, or a meaningful word said in a neutral tone. They found that dogs only registered praise in the reward region of their brain if both positive words and encouraging intonation were used at the same time. [Source: New Scientist]