Revealed: Dogs can talk to humans!
A recent study has shown that dogs do in fact have the surprising ability to make humans understand exactly what their barks mean. It also turns out that women are apparently better than men at recognising the emotions emitted by a canine, especially if the dog exerts moods of playfulness, threat or fear, scientists discovered.
The study involved 40 volunteers who were asked to listen to a range of different ‘growls’ recorded from 18 individual dogs that were either guarding their food, playing a game of tug-of-war or facing a threatening stranger.
Participants were able to correctly classify 63% of the recordings with each type of growl being recognised above ‘chance level’ (even guesswork wouldn’t achieve such a high percentage). Less surprising was the volunteer’s ability to identify ‘play’ growls (81%) whereas they were less able to recognise the food guarding or threatening growls.
The experiment was conducted as part of the Royal Society Open Science by Dr Tamas Farago and his team from Evotos Lorand Univeristy (Hungary). Dr Farago clarifies the experiment’s findings saying, “Participants associated the correct contexts with the growls above chance. Moreover, women and participants experienced with dogs scored higher in this task.”
The research also showed that during play, dogs produced a larger number of shorter, less separated growls than when they were aggressive or fearful. Rather, play growls and food guarding growls had distinctively different pitch characteristics.
In addition to recognising the context of each growl, the volunteers also had to rate growls on a scale dependent on five emotional states: aggression, fear, happiness, despair and playfulness. Again, according to the scientists, context had a considerable influence on being able to read the dogs emotions – for example, playful growls were obviously rated lowest in terms of aggression, and food guarding growls – the highest.
The research team concluded, “Our results…indicate that dogs communicate honestly their size and inner state in serious contest situations, where confrontation would be costly, such as during guarding of their food from another dog.
“At the same time, in contexts with assumedly more uncertain inner states, such as in play or when threatened by a stranger, they may manipulate certain key parameters in their growls for an exaggerated aggressive and playful expression.
“According to our results, adult humans seem to understand and respond accordingly to this acoustic information during cross-species interactions with dogs.”
Image courtesy of Pixabay.