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Children Understand Dog Language

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Bark Bark! What’s that Lassie? Marie fell down a well and can’t get out anymore? Take me to her!

Lassie’s owner Timmy always seems to know exactly what his dog is telling him. According to researchers at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest (Hungary) this might not be as far-fetched as it seems. They found that children are much better able to interpret dog barking than adults.

Although most dog owners think they know what their barking dog wants, good communication remains difficult. Researchers asked children and adults to listen to recordings of barking dogs and link those sounds to facial expressions of dogs on photos. They found that children under ten years are much more likely to match the right sound with the right picture.

That dogs indeed have different kinds of barks was also found in the study. The researchers made the dogs bark in different circumstances, for example by confronting them with strangers, other (aggressive) dogs, or by playing with them. The barking sounds were then analyzed by a computer that was increasingly able to ‘learn’ and recognize what bark was made in which circumstance.

Source: Journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science

Péter Pongráczemail, Csaba Molnár, Antal Dóka, & Ádám Miklósi (2011). Do children understand man’s best friend? Classification of dog barks by pre-adolescents and adults. Applied Animal Behaviour Science

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