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Scientists reveal exactly why dogs tilt their head at you - and it's adorable

Two recent studies reveal that pups might know a lot more than “sit” and “stay”.

Ask any dog owner and they’ll tell you, of course, their precious fur baby is the smartest pooch on earth. No question. And it’s hard to argue with a pup-parent.

But now there’s a bit of science behind the smarts of dogs. Two recently released studies show that dogs might understand humans more than we thought.

What’s behind that head tilt?

When a dog wants to play the ultimate cute card, a good head tilt never fails. And there is something cognitive under that cuteness.

A study in the scientific journal Animal Cognition links the head tilt with dogs paying keen attention and matching words to objects. Basically, dogs understand some of what we are saying.

The researchers observed 40 dogs who were given the task of fetching a toy from another room when prompted by that toy’s specific name - already an impressive move for dogs who had to remember the right word for the right toy.

The study shows that the dogs who were the best at recognizing the toy’s name and fetching that toy, tilted their heads upon hearing the right word. This tilt highly suggests dogs can recall a word from memory and pair it with a mental image.

Researchers also looked into a dog’s preference for a left or right head tilt, but nothing too conclusive came about. Still cute either way, right?

Dogs understand more words than we think

Another recent study - this one from Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary - concludes that our pups recognize more complex language than standard dog commands.

In an elaborate series of tests with electrodes, MRI machines, and other lab do-dads, scientists studied the brain activity of dogs when they played them recorded stimuli. When words were broken up into various patterns and syllables, dogs were able to tell the difference between frequently played words, full words, and parts of words.

What does this mean? It shows for the first time non-human mammals use the same brain functions as humans to compute sounds as language.

Dogs distinguish - as much as an infant can - that a group of syllables strung together are words, and unrelated fragments of sounds aren’t words. Which, they say, is a complex process of taking in language.

Does it mean you shouldn’t tell your dog your bank passwords or darkest secrets? You’re probably okay with that for now.

But at least now you have scientific backing to tell people your pup is a good and a smart little boy.


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