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Can dogs understand what we say to them? Science says yes-ish

A small young dog cocks its head dog-wow
© Pixabay

A scientist from Emory University in Atlanta, who has dedicated his time to the study of the canine mind, claims dogs can understand some of what we tell them.

By Nick Whittle

Published on the 16/02/2020, 11:00, Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:32


Professor of neuro-economics at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia Gregory Berns is on a mission to discover what goes on in a dog’s brain, especially when the dog interacts with a human. His chosen method to do this is innovative: a brain scan - completely harmless to his canine subjects.

Dog personality studies

Much of the Prof's work is centred on a dog's responses to rewards.

In an interview with The Guardian in 2018 Prof Berns said, “One of the first things that I wanted to know was, if we are looking at dogs’ reward system – in terms of parts of their brain that are critical for motivation and, if you want to be a little philosophical about it, pleasure and what they like – do they hang around us humans just for food because we feed them or is there more to the dog-human bond than that?”

Prof Berns has since conducted various scientific tests to determine the extent of a dog's interaction with humans. Reports Brightside, one of his latest theories is that dogs can determine our mood by looking at and remembering our facial expressions.

The Professor's research also showed that dogs are most responsive to a happy face rather than a face that shows anger or sadnness.

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