Laura V. Cuaya, the first author of the study, titled “Speech naturalness detection and language representation in the dog brain,” said that she came up with the idea after moving to Hungary from Mexico. Until then, she’d only spoken to her dog Kun-kun in Spanish and she wondered if he could tell that people in his new country were speaking a different language.

Cuaya and her team found that he indeed can, at least on an unconscious level. Kun-kun and 17 other dogs were administered fMRIs, while readings of The Little Prince in Spanish and Hungarian played for them. (They literally put headphones on the dogs. It was very sweet.) The dogs also listened to scrambled versions of the excerpts. The researchers found distinct patterns in the dogs’ brains that discerned between speech and non-speech and, in a different brain region, Spanish and Hungarian.

Whew! Mystery solved. One of the study’s senior authors, Attila Andics, has a few caveats about the results: “We do not know whether this capacity is dogs’ specialty, or general among non-human species. Indeed, it is possible that the brain changes from the tens of thousand years that dogs have been living with humans have made them better language listeners, but this is not necessarily the case. Future studies will have to find this out.”


Great. Do cats next!