Do you ever feel like you know can sense your dog's mood when it growls? Well, a study published in Royal Society Open Science proves that you might actually be onto something — especially if you're a woman.
The eye-opening study, which was conducted in Hungary by Hungarian scientists (one of whom did a similar study on barks in 2005), involved 40 voluntary participants (26 female and 14 male). Volunteers were asked to listen to two sets of growl recordings each. For the set, they were tasked with placing the growl on an emotional scale consisting of five options: aggression, fear, despair, happiness, and playfulness. Then, for the second one, they needed to identify the context without any background info. Was the dog guarding its food? Responding to a threatening human? Or was it simply playing? As you can imagine, dog owners of both sexes were better correctly identifying them. They have more experience, of course!
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But here's, arguably, the best part: women, regardless of pet ownership, also had a higher success rate. "It is known that women have a higher emotional sensitivity" the authors note, "and probably this higher sensitivity can help to differentiate better the context of the growls."
While this experiment shows we know more about the audible differences in the way pups communicate than previously thought, there are a couple glaringly good reason to keep learning. Animal communications expert Holly Root-Gutteridge highlighted them in a quote published in The Guardian: "[It] may help in reducing dog aggression towards humans as well as improving dogs' behavior."
Now, raise your hands if you're going to listen to your fur baby extra carefully from now on.
Have dogs of your own? Watch how to clean a pet bed: