After doing some research on canine communications, we ran into a study conducted by Dr. Tamás Faragó and his team at Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary back in 2017. This is, rather interestingly, the same facility that recently undertook research on whether or not dogs had a preference for intonation among humans.
The results confirmed what many of us have suspected for years: dogs enjoy baby talk directed at them and they respond better to women than men.
Women & Dogs
The earlier 2017 study, however, investigated whether women or men were better at interpreting canine communications. The results will probably come as no surprise to most women, but females are more likely to correctly interpret the growls and barks emitted by dogs than “other study participants” (men) when exposed to merely sound.
What the study ultimately told them, though, is that dogs really can effectively communicate and make themselves understood by humans on a rudimentary level.
Animal studies result in a better understanding of pets’ physical health, emotional range, and levels of intellect. This particular body of research delved into how well we, as humans, process the differences between vocal expressions such as barks and growls from our canine pals.
For Dr. Faragó’s study, 40 male and female volunteers listened to audiotapes of 18 dogs barking and growling to see if they could tell the difference between happy/playful noises, threatening sounds, sounds of fear, and food-guarding warnings. All in all, “Participants associated the correct contexts with the growls above chance,” Faragó wrote in the journal Royal Society Open Science. “Moreover,” he continued, “women and participants experienced with dogs scored higher in this task.”
Playful Pups vs. Perturbed Pups
When listening to dogs at play, an impressive 81 percent of participants correctly identified the emotion they were hearing. As it turned out, the animals recorded during play produced a significant number of shorter growls with less separation than when they were exhibiting aggression or fear.
Those growls were apparently far easier to decipher than growls connected to tension because listeners were noticeably less successful at distinguishing between food-guarding noises and out-and-out threatening growls.
Do We Know Our Dogs or What?
The scientists involved noted that, as a whole, the volunteers were correctly able to classify 63 percent of the “growl samples” provided to them, and went on to say, “According to our results, adult humans seem to understand and respond accordingly to this acoustic information during cross-species interactions with dogs.”
While that’s good to know, we’d rather they bark happy barks any day of the week.