Animals are usually much more smart than people realize. Take dogs for instance. Every dog owner knows that the tone of your voice matters just as much as the words you are saying. Scold the dog in a sweet voice and it’s just not going to work. 

Now researchers in Hungary have documented the cognitive response in dogs when they are exposed to different tones of voice. And what do you know? The tone of your voice matters.

Researchers positioned 13 canine subjects in MRI machines and measured their responses when played recordings of their owners. The voices delivered various commands in different tones. A previous study looked at how the same dogs responded to different vocalizations.

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What they confirmed is that it took both a word and tone to trigger the dog’s reward center, according to the study published in the latest issue of Science. There is nothing in nature more complicated than human speech, so it is with much admiration that we give a tip of a hat to our canine companions. But as we now know, it’s not all in the words.

They said the hardest part was getting the dogs to sit still for the MRI. 

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Photo credit: Enik Kubinyi Science