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Dogs understand that words refer to objects, study suggests
The findings suggest that dogs activate memories of an object when they hear its name, say the researchers.
New research reveals brain activity similar to humans.

Dogs can tell whether a word is the right one for an object presented to them, a new study has found.

Although it is well known that dogs respond to human language, such as when given verbal commands, the findings suggest that they might be able to understand that specific nouns refer to certain objects.

Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary, studied the brain activity of 18 dogs as their owners said the names of familiar toys to them.

As they said the names, the owners presented objects to their dogs. For example, the owner would tell their dog: “Zara, look, the ball.”

Sometimes the object presented was the toy that matched the word, sometimes it was a different object.

Using non-invasive awake EEG, the researchers found that the dogs had a different pattern of brain activity when the object matched the word compared to when it did not.

The brain activity was similar to that in humans when they understand the meaning of words.

Marianna Boros, one of the authors of the study, said: “Dogs do not only react with a learned behaviour to certain words. They also don’t just associate that word with an object based on temporal contiguity without really understanding the meaning of those words, but they activate a memory of an object when they hear its name.”

The results also showed that the difference in the patterns was greater for words that the dogs were more familiar with. However, the total number of words that a dog knew had no significant impact on their ability to understand the meaning of words.

Dr Boros added: “It doesn’t matter how many object words a dog understands, known words activate mental representations anyway, suggesting that this ability is generally present in dogs and not just in some exceptional individuals who know the names of many objects.”

The study has been published in the journal Current Biology.

Image © Shutterstock

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Rabbit Awareness Week set to return this summer

News Story 1
 Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) is returning this summer, running from 24-28 June 2024. The theme for this year will be 'Healthy Diet, Happy Bunnies'.

The focus on rabbits' diet comes after the most recent PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report report revealed that 42 per cent of veterinary professionals identified inappropriate diet as one of the five most important rabbit welfare issues that need to be address.

The campaign will include veterinary blogs, videos, and digital waiting room resources. Practices can sign up to receive updates about RAW. 

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CVS Group, which owns more than 450 veterinary practices in the UK, has been hit by a cyber attack.

In a statement, the group said the incident involved unauthorised external access to a limited number of its IT systems. As soon as the attack was discovered, the group took its IT systems temporarily offline, causing 'considerable operational disruption'.

It has warned that the security steps taken and ongoing plans to move its operational systems and IT infrastructure to the Cloud are likely to have an ongoing impact over a number of weeks.

Due to the risk that personal information was accessed, CVS has informed the Information Commissioner's Office. The company is working with third party consultants to investigate the incident.