Scientists at Emory University conducted one of the first studies using brain imaging to probe how our dog companions process words they have been taught to associate with objects, conducted by scientists at Emory University.
The Emory researchers concentrated on questions close to the brain mechanisms dogs use to distinguish between words, or even what institutes a word to a dog.
For this study, 12 dogs of diverse breeds were trained for months by their owners to recover two different objects, based on the objects' names. Each dog's pair of objects involved one with a soft texture, such as a stuffed animal, and another of a different texture, such as rubber, to enable judgment.
Training consisted of teaching the dogs to fetch one of the objects and then rewarding them with food or praise. Training was considered complete when a dog showed that it could categorize between the two objects by constantly retrieving the one wished for by the owner when offered with both of the objects.
The results do not mean that spoken words are the most active way for an owner to communicate with a dog. From the dog's viewpoint, however, a visual command might be more effective, aiding it to learn the trick faster.