Some pet owners are convinced their dogs understand what they are saying, and even claim to have conversations with their four-legged friends.

Now scientists say they may be right, with research showing that man’s best friend is able to identify when someone new is speaking, or when they are saying a new word.

Humans can recognise who is speaking from the voice alone, and can also recognise the same word spoken by different people.

Researchers from the University of Sussex looked at whether domestic dogs could also spontaneously recognise the same word when spoken by different people, including people they were unfamiliar with.

The cohort of dogs were filmed reacting to recordings of men and women saying a variety of similarly-sounding words, including “had”, “hid”, “heard” and “heed”.
The words used in the study were specifically chosen to have no relation to typical commands, so that the dogs were unable to react as a result of any home training.
“This research shows that, despite previous assumptions, this spontaneous ability is not uniquely human and that dogs share this linguistic talent, suggesting that speech perception may not be as special to humans as we previously thought.”
A total of 42 dogs took part in the study. Six of the dogs were tested under both conditions, and each set of tests consisted of 24 dogs, providing the scientists with 48 sets of results.
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