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Dog response to owners analysed

A dog responds to its master's voice in much the same way as a human, research has shown.

Words and the way they are spoken are processed on different sides of the canine brain, scientists discovered.

And while it would be barking up the wrong tree to assume they have a human-like grasp of language, dogs appear to pay attention to words and sentences just like we do.

The study tested the "hemispheric bias" - favouring the left or right side of the brain - of dogs as they listened to a "come on" command from their owners.

Due to cross-wiring in the brain, if a dog turned its left ear towards the voice it meant the right side of the brain was processing the sound.

Conversely, turning the right ear forward meant sound was being processed in the left hemisphere.

Sounds containing exaggerated intonation or emotional cues prompted the first reaction and those highlighting meaningful word components the second.

Researcher Dr David Reby, from the University of Sussex, said: "This is particularly interesting because our results suggest that the processing of speech components in the dog's brain is divided between the two hemispheres in a way that is actually very similar to the way it is separated in the human brain."

The findings are reported in the journal Current Biology.

In their paper the scientists wrote: "The striking correspondence between dogs' and humans' hemispheric biases reported here may reflect convergent evolution if dogs have been selected to respond to human vocal signals during domestication.

"Alternatively, they may be indicative of shared hemispheric specialisations that are present across .. distant mammal species and expressed when exposed to functionally meaningful speech signals."

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