In a viral video on TikTok, a Shiba Inu perks up hearing his owner’s voice on the radio for the first time. Despite the owner not being there, it begs the question if dogs can recognize voices—or actually understand that it’s you when you ask to talk to your dog on the phone.
Owners Already Talk To Their Dogs
If you think your dog knows the sound of your voice you aren’t alone. Back when people had landlines and answering machines some people would call home to talk to their dogs because the audio would play in real-time in the house. Now, many dog cameras have two-way speakers that allow you to not only see your dog but also talk to them. By doing so, you can help redirect a dog who might be barking at a noise outside the window or calm a dog who is stressed or anxious about being left alone.
Many dog owners believe the sound of their voice can be comforting to their dog and will even call home and ask a family member or pet sitter to put the dog on the phone or video call. Although some dogs seem confused by where their owner’s voice is coming from, most dogs do seem to recognize the voice they are hearing belongs to their owner.
What Science Says
Scientists have now found that our dogs really do understand our spoken language and can even recognize people’s voices. In a study from the University of Sussex in England, scientists looked at whether dogs were able to recognize a word when it was said by different people who they didn’t know. The study chose random words that were not associated with training cues or commands to ensure dogs didn’t have preexisting understanding. The researchers found that the dogs that were able to recognize a word said by different people, could also recognize different people based on voice alone. Previously, speech perception, or the ability to recognize a word spoken by different people, was thought to be something unique to humans.
Another recent study from researchers at the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary discovered that dogs could recognize their owners just by the sound of their voices. The study was looking at the unique acoustic parameters that help people to recognize each other, and if dogs do the same. Researchers looked at 28 different dogs and owners. As part of the study, the dog’s owner and a stranger were hidden behind walls. Then, the dog owner’s voice was played from the owner’s hidden location and the stranger’s voice was played from their location. They found that the dogs were able to find their owners based only on voice most of the time.
To see if dogs also relied on their sense of smell to locate their owners, the researchers then played the owner’s voice from where the stranger was hidden. In these cases, the dogs followed the audio of their owner’s voice when it was played from the stranger’s location even though the owner’s scent wasn’t there, proving the importance of voice recognition.
Try a Voice Experiment At Home
Curious about how your dog will react to the sound of your voice? You can try some experiments at home with your own dog to see if they can recognize your voice. Think of it as a fun game to play with your dog.
To start, you can record your voice on your phone and play it back to see how your dog responds. Then, the test can begin. Start by hiding in your home and talking loudly enough for your dog to hear you. If your dog successfully finds where you’ve hidden, you can make things a little more challenging. Using the recording of your voice, have a friend play the recording from a hidden location in your home and see where your dog goes.
Just note that if your dog seems upset, stressed, or distressed, make sure to come out of hiding right away. But otherwise, testing your dog’s ability to recognize your voice can be one social media trend that’s a fun challenge for dogs and people.