Dogs understand praise the same way we do. Here's why that matters.
Dogs can't speak, but their brains respond to spoken words, suggesting human language has deep evolutionary roots.
Every dog owner knows that saying Good dog! in a happy, high-pitched voice will evoke a flurry of joyful tail wagging in their pet.
That made scientists curious: What exactly happens in your dog's brain when it hears praise, and is it similar to the hierarchical way our own brain processes such acoustic information?
When a person gets a compliment, the more primitive, subcortical auditory regions first reacts to the intonation—the emotional force of spoken words. Next, the brain taps the more recently evolved auditory cortex to figure out the meaning of the words, which is learned.
In 2016, a team of scientists discovered that dogs’ brains, like those of humans, compute the intonation and meaning of a word separately—although dogs