Recent Dog Research Roundup

Recent Dog Research Roundup

Researchers are studying dogs now more than ever, and their findings are fascinating for any dog lover.

The more we know and the more we understand, the better pet parents we can be. Here’s a roundup of some canine research making headlines lately.

Dogs can differentiate between languages

We often assume human conversation seems like uninteresting blabbing to which dogs pay very little attention. But is this accurate, or is there more going on?

Researchers tested (very well-behaved!) dogs by monitoring their brainwaves/responses while listening to a book being read in their familiar language, then in an unfamiliar language, and then in nonsense words. The dogs’ brains showed different activity patterns when they heard their familiar versus unfamiliar language.

“This is the first nonprime species for which we could show spontaneous language ability,” noted the study leader Attila Andics, head of the ethology department at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, Hungary.

According to Andics, the dogs demonstrated abilities similar to those of preverbal infants who can differentiate between familiar and unfamiliar language long before they can speak. In other words, dogs pick up the characteristics of the language to which they are exposed.

Of particular note for us fans of senior dogs is apparently the older the dog, the better their brain distinguished between languages. Go seniors!

Dogs ease our pain

We have become accustomed to seeing dogs in more and more places and perhaps soon we will encounter dogs in the ER… working! Recently, Canadian researchers determined that dogs help alleviate pain in humans

Canadian doctors used therapy dogs to comfort emergency room patients. Some patients experiencing pain received a 10-minute visit with a therapy dog in addition to traditional medicine. Meanwhile another group only received traditional medicine.

Those who received dog visits reported less pain than those not visited. Experts theorize that dogs alleviate stress and anxiety and help patients experience pain differently. 

Let’s get dogs in all emergency rooms, STAT!

Dogs keep seniors active and less frail

We’ve all heard that dogs help keep their owners active. But researchers have found that dogs are extremely beneficial for seniors in a particular new study.

A Japanese study reviewing records of 11,000 Japanese seniors found those who owned dogs were about half as likely to be physically disabled as seniors who don’t own dogs. Meanwhile, researchers found no such correlation from cat ownership. Hmmm.

Researchers also discovered that seniors who own dogs are markedly less frail than those without dogs. It seems this reduced frailty may be the result of increased social functioning and physical activity. 

“Dog ownership protects against the onset of disability in older adults,” noted the study’s authors.

This research is quite compelling. We should encourage every senior we know to adopt a (senior) dog. It’s good for them!

Dogs can recognize us by voice alone

Researchers have determined that dogs can identify their owners by only voice. It’s long been assumed that dogs needed to rely on additional senses, particularly smell, but this is not so.

Scientists studied dogs as they heard their owner’s voice coming from behind a corner in a room, and a stranger’s voice coming from a different corner — each saying the dog’s name. Dogs were able to discern their owners’ voices and head to the correct person 82% of the time, even when the voices were quite similar.

This held true whether the voices were delivered in person or via recording. Researchers explain that dogs analyze voice in much the same way humans do, by studying particular aspects including pitch, noisiness, and timbre.

So, the next time you are missing your dog while on vacation and ask the dog sitter to put your dog on the phone, don’t feel silly! Dogs really do know us by our voices. 

Pets slow cognitive decline in seniors

Besides keeping us less likely to be disabled and less frail, dogs also have just been discovered to slow cognitive decline in seniors. Researchers reviewed records from over 1,000 senior-aged participants and found those who were pet owners, particularly long-term pet owners (5 years or longer), had less cognitive decline than other groups. 

The study’s author said that while more research needs to be done, she theorized that pets’ ability to lower our stress and increase our physical activity (particularly dogs) could explain why pets help stave off cognitive decline.

This provides yet another reason to encourage the senior humans in our lives to adopt dogs, and hold onto them as long as possible. Talk about a win-win!

Hope you enjoyed this roundup of recent research and that you are more convinced than ever to adopt a senior dog!

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