Pictured here is Sky the Border Collie who, along with her mom Dr. Melody Jackson, is leading cutting edge research that give dogs a “voice” that enhances the relationship between dogs and their people. At the Georgia Tech Animal Computer Interaction Lab, when instructed, Sky lifts her head to tug on a strap that hangs from the side of a vest that triggers a voice that says, “My owner is hurt, please follow me.” Sky and her Mom are also currently testing additional technology that calls 911 upon the tug of a strap.
This research has illustrated that most dogs can understand human language at the same level as a 2 year old human child. Some dogs far exceed this, such as Sky who can comprehend human language at the level of a 4 year old human.
Similarly to humans, dogs have evolved an area in the brain called the Broca, which is responsible for language comprehension, lending them an uncanny ability to learn and comprehend human speech.
The vest also has other applications where bomb sniffing dogs may differentiate between a stable or dangerous substance with a simple tug on a strap. The possibilities for the technology being studied at Georgia Tech can be profoundly life changing. For example, a deaf person may be alerted that a baby is crying or someone is at the front door.
For those of us who have had dogs all of our lives and love them as family members, most of us enjoy talking to their dogs. I have always felt that dogs understand not only what I am saying, but sense the feelings behind my words. In the past, this belief was dismissed as simple repetitive sound association and dogs being astutely sensitive to human body language and the scent of pheromones. However, this research has proven what I have known in my heart since I was a child, that my dogs can actually understand my words.
While the practical applications of this research are exciting for the enhancement of the canine-human bond, the confirmation that dogs understand our language is even more profound.
Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, Chief Editor of the Veterinary Advice and Information Website, Web-DVM, and founder/CEO of Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.
Photo and article source credit: http://www.wtsp.com/life/animals/our-dogs-understand-language-as-well-as-a-child/352328621