When met with their owner's voice and a stranger's, the furry animals chose their true companion 82 percent of the time.
woman talking to dog in park
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Have you ever been in one room of the house and summoned your dog to come join you, simply by calling out their name? Our four-legged friends typically comply excitedly, hoping for a treat or to be taken for a walk. This blind obedience raises the question: Can dogs recognize their owner by voice alone? According to a new study conducted by researchers from Eötvös Loránd University, the answer is yes. Additionally, the scientists found that canines utilize some of the same voice properties humans do.

To obtain their findings, the study authors had 28 pairs of dogs and their owners play hide and seek in their lab. The owners hid behind one of two blocks placed on opposite sides of the room, while a stranger hid behind the other block. Once they were completely hidden, the owners and strangers called out to the dog in a neutral voice. Each pup and owner pair played the game multiple times along with different strangers simultaneously trying to get the dog's attention. Eighty-two percent of the time, the dogs were able to correctly identify their owners, even when their voices where very similar to the strangers'. To account for the possibility that the canine's were seeking out their owner based on smell, the researchers used voice recordings during the last two rounds.

There are several different vocal properties that dogs may use when seeking out their owner's voice. Like humans, lead study author Anna Gábor, believes it's possible that dogs depend on pitch (higher or lower), noisiness (cleaner or harsher), and timbre (brighter or darker) to differentiate between their owner's voice and the stranger's. The researchers gave each dog time at the beginning of the game to listen to the competing voices before choosing. If the owner's voice and the stranger's voice varied significantly in pitch and noisiness, the dogs had an easier time seeking out the correct person. Additionally, the dogs typically looked in the direction they believed their owner was in before running to them.

These findings further underscore the importance of building a strong bond with your dog. While previous research has already shown us that being a dog-owner is linked to a longer, healthier life, it's clear that fostering a relationship with your pup benefits them, too.


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