We express ourselves every day in different ways, especially through verbal communication. You can usually tell if someone close to you is happy, angry or sad by the sound of their voice. As it turns out, human and canine brains are very similar when it comes to understanding the components of human speech. According to a 2014 study, dogs are hardwired to listen to us in much the same way we are hardwired to listen to others.
It’s no easy task sometimes to get a dog’s attention, which leaves one to wonder if he even heard what you said – let alone understood your words. However, dogs are very capable of understanding human speech as well as picking up on the tonal complexity in speech. If your dog doesn’t listen to you, it’s not because he isn’t paying attention. He can differentiate between human speech that has meaningful words and sounds with only emotional inflections. Scientists have known for some time that dogs “get” how we say things, but little is actually known on whether canines understand what we say to them.
The human brain processes important verbal information in speech in the left hemisphere, but the characteristic parts of speech are processed in the right hemisphere – e.g., the speaker is male or female, someone familiar to you, and emotional cues. When we listen to someone speaking, we hear the meaning of words in the right ear and emotional cues in the left ear. Most of us have a left-right cross link in our auditory organs; in other words, the right ear hears meaningful speech and is linked to the left hemisphere of the brain while the left ear hears emotional cues and is linked to the right hemisphere.