We all love to brag about our dogs – and now we have even more reason to do so! Take a look at what science has to say about talking up your pup.
Bragging has a bad connotation in our society. You’ve probably had your ear bent by a parent who has the smartest kid in the class or a co-worker who loves to drop that she makes more money than you do. They’re legends in their own minds. You definitely don’t want to be one of those people…except when it comes to your dog.
And as it turns out, this isn’t a bad thing! In fact, bragging about your dog might make him feel more confident. Think of it this way; when your employer gives you a positive review, you feel pretty good. It’s the human equivalent of a pat on the head and a treat. But, what if later that same day, you overhear your boss telling his director that you’re a superstar? Now that’s even more powerful.
Dogs pick up on more than we think
Another reason to sing your pup’s praises? Great! But will your dog really know that you’re bragging about him? As it turns out, scientists think he will.
In a 2016 Hungarian study published in the prestigious journal, Science, researchers found that dogs process human language very much like we do. Not only do they recognize words as having specific meaning, but dogs understand that intonation should match the words in order for language to make sense. That shows a sophisticated processing of human language.
While that might not seem shocking to most dog parents, the implications of the study are fascinating. The research shows that both dogs and humans process language in very similar ways; with the left side of the brain interpreting meaning and the right side processing emotion. What is most impressive, is your dog’s ability to connect the two.
So, if you mismatch words with tone, speak gobbledygook, or try to trick your dog with nonsense words, he knows that you’re being silly.
As Attila Andics, lead researcher and neuroscientist at Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary says in an NPR interview, “dogs process both what we say and how we say it in a way that is amazingly similar to how human brains do.”
“Humans seem to be the only species which uses words and intonation for communicating emotions, feelings, inner states,” says Andics. “To find that dogs have a very similar neural mechanism to tell apart meaningful words from meaningless sound sequences is, I think, really amazing.”
It makes sense; of all the animals humans have domesticated, dogs have shared our home and hearth the longest, at least 20,000 years. Some scientists say it’s closer to 40,000 years. Your dog’s ancestors have been paying attention to human speech for a really long time.
No wonder your dog just gets you!
Saying nice things about your dog can improve her self-confidence. Try switching from complaining that your dog is too high-strung or doesn’t walk well on a leash, to bragging about how fast she runs. “Look at my dog! She’s the fastest dog in the park today! She’s so cool!” You might find she’ll zoom by you smiling, ears pressed flat against her head, trying her best to run even faster.
Now that you know your dog understands more than you think, go ahead….grab someone’s ear and brag about her!