Dogs use a bunch of clues when trying to figure out what the heck we're saying.
Your pup is able to understand some of the words you use, as well as how you say them. But which is more important?
In a new video from PBS, It's Okay to Be Smart host Joe Hanson sorts it out, citing one study published in Current Biology that found words and emotions activate different parts of your furry friend's brain.
Each hemisphere of a brain has its specialties.
In very simplified terms, the left is usually dominant with language, and the right tends to be more occupied with visual cues, like spatial tasks or facial recognition.
Each half also controls the opposite part of the body: The right typically instructs the muscles on the left side of your body, and vice versa.
During the study's experiment, when commands were said neutrally without any affect, dogs turned their heads to the right.
That means they were processing the verbal meaning of what researchers were saying with their left hemisphere.
But when the words were jumbled but said with emotion, dogs turned their heads to the left.
That suggests they process emotional sounds using the right side of their brain. As Hanson explains, that means your dogs can separate words and emotions.
Your subtle bodily cues also have a lot to do with how a dog interprets you.
When we look at other people, we unconsciously look at the right side of their faces to read how they're feeling. (If you're curious, it's called the left gaze bias because we use the left part of our brains to do so.)
Our canine companions are the only non-primate animal that look for eye contact with us. They also tend to look at the right side of our faces, but they don't do that with dogs, as a few studies show.
That means they seem to really want to suss out who the good boy is using all three sets of clues.