Many, many years ago I spoke with a dog expert who told me he genuinely believed that dogs can pretty much comprehend what we say and he also believed the average dog has the same mental capacity as a human toddler.

I don't know if everything the expert told me is true, but I've found myself looking at dogs a lot differently now that I have a toddler who has a pretty incredible grasp on what I say, even at only a year and a half old. I've caught myself staring at a dog out for a walk with their owner and wondering if they understand what's happening around them just as my son does.

A new study sort of backs up what the dog expert told me years ago, and that's that your dog doesn't just recognize tone, but they actually understand what we're saying.

Researchers trained about a dozen dogs to lie perfectly still in an MRI machine while listening to their trainer’s voice. The trainers said meaningful words in a monotone voice and then in a highly praising tone and then they did the same thing with a random set of words that wouldn't really mean anything to a dog.

When the dogs heard the meaningful words, the left hemisphere of their brain became active and that helped them to process the worlds. On the other hand, when a meaningless word was said, the right brain lit up which means the dog was trying to interpret the tone. When the words and the tone matched up, both sides of the dog’s brain were activated and that means the dog was trying to interpret meaning.

Basically what this means is that doesn't aren't only able to learn what we say, but they're able to interpret the meaning of something even when they don't understand.

[via Today]