How well dogs really understand us is a fascinating concept. I’ve always thought so, but it was discussing it with friends over dinner this weekend that finally pushed me to find out more about our unique connection with this evolved wolf: it truly is a fascinating relationship.
The ability to understand each other, both physically and emotionally, has stemmed mainly from the wolf changing its‘ way of communication. Before domestication wolves were, for the most part, mute (not barking) and wild wolves still are. Humans, on the other hand, are highly vocal: we rarely rely on communicating purely through body language. For example, seeing two or more people holding an entire „conversation“ without words (not including sign language) is a sight I have yet to see.
But body language is the most common form of communication in the animal kingdom!
So, as wolves evolved and accustomed their character to our way of life; so did their voices. They learned that the most accurate way to let us know what they were thinking and what they wanted, was to begin to bark, whine, and growl more often.
More and more research is being done to better understand how humans and dogs are able to get along so well. The outcome of this research has been very interesting: one experiment proving that dogs have minds similar to those of roughly 6 month old babies!
Much research is being done in Budapest. An experiment was held where dogs in different situations were recorded: angry (protecting territory), lonely (left alone/tied up), excited, happy, etc. These recordings were then played to one person at a time and the volunteers were able to, surprisingly, understand almost every one of the barks and whines. Some were even able to guess that the dog was asking for a ball to be thrown!
Below is an article that explores another experiment that was held.
Can dogs really understand our body language better than chimps? Let me know what you think after reading this article!