Photo: Piter1977 (Getty)
In a development that will stun both canine owners and lovers of well-worn idioms, the belief that a dog being a man’s best friend might not be true after all.
A 2017 British study suggests that it isn’t men whom dogs build a greater understanding with, but women. The study, published in the Royal Society of Open Science journal, bases its claim on a key element of canine-to-human communication — a dog’s growl.
Owners will already be well aware that the growling of their pooch can mean a variety of different things. Aside from using their vocals to show aggression or offer a warning, dogs also growl when playing, as well as when petted. Different growls come with different tones of sound, and it transpires that women are much better at picking up the meaning behind each type, than men are.
What was that thing about ‘female intuition’ again?
The study brought together 18 dogs and placed them in situations that would stimulate a range of differing moods. From playing tug-of-war to being made to guard food from other dogs, the canines were put through their paces – and their growls recorded. Then, a sample group of 40 participants were made to listen to the recordings and asked to work out the emotion behind each one.
Overall, the group managed to achieve a 63 percent overall success rate at identifying the correct meaning behind each growl. Naturally, dog owners performed much better than those without a canine companion. But the findings also showed that women scored best between the genders. And despite the small sample size of the experiment, the conductors believe it’s no small fluke, either.
Speaking with Broadly, lead author of the study, Tamas Farago, suggested this:
“Our recent fMRI studies suggest that dogs and humans use similar brain areas and probably similar processes to assess others’ emotions from vocalizations. Women are likely more empathic and sensitive to others’ emotions and this helps them to better associate the contexts with the emotional content of the growls.”
So there you have it. If you find ol’ Fido growling at you for seemingly no reason, be mindful. He might just be lecturing you on how your better half just ‘gets’ him more than you ever could.