(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)
Dogs are easily one of mankind's best liaisons into the animal kingdom. Not only do they seem to understand our language, they also seem to have an uncanny ability to read our emotions. As human as they may seem sometimes, a recently published study provides evidence that dogs learn to associate words with objects in a different manner than humans do.
A team of scientists led by Emile van der Zee from the University of Lincoln, UK studied five-year-old Border Collie Gable and how the dog learned to associate different objects with different words.
It seems that dogs tend to focus more on the size and texture of an object when forming word associations than humans do.
"Where shape matters for us, size or texture matters more for your dog. This study shows for the first time that there is a qualitative difference in word comprehension in the dog compared to word comprehension in humans," reads the study.
The researchers found that Gable first began associating words with their respective objects mostly by size. After more training, Gable seemed to link the texture of a word back to the object. Shape, it turned out, simply wasn't high on the dog's priority list.
Humans between the ages of two and three begin forming word associations mostly based on shape. This means that a toddler will pick out a spherical object when prompted by the word "ball" rather than an object with similar texture or size.
Dogs do recognize categories of objects such as "toy," but just how they formed these word associations and whether the process is similar to humans remains a mystery. The new findings will help scientists further understand a dog's cognitive development and just how far our mutual relationship with canines goes.
Read the published study in the open access journal PLOS ONE.