Child talking to dog

Dogs can recognise their owner by voice alone

How well does your dog know you? Researchers in Hungary have found that dogs are able to recognise their owner even when they can’t see or smell them.

It’s the first demonstration that dogs can distinguish their owner’s voice from many others, according to Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest.

Dog and owner

In a study involving 28 owner-dog pairs, dogs had to find their owner behind one of two hiding places while a stranger hid behind the other one. The researchers played the owner’s voice from the owner’s hiding place, and a stranger’s voice from the other hiding place, both reading out recipes in a neutral tone. The dogs’ task was to choose from a distance and find their owners. The game had multiple rounds and the owner’s voice was paired with 14 different strangers’ voices, some more similar to the owner’s voice, some more different.

Dogs found their owner in 82% of the cases.

To make sure that smells did not help the dogs, in the last two rounds the owner’s voice was played from where the stranger hid, and the dogs still went for the voice.

The researchers also explored what exactly in the voices helped dogs to choose.

“People mostly make use of three properties: pitch (higher or lower), noisiness (cleaner or harsher), and timbre (brighter or darker) to differentiate others,” explained Anna Gábor, lead author of the study.

Dogs were better able to recognise their owner’s voice when the owner’s and the stranger’s voice differed more in pitch and noisiness.

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