According to a new study, people are really good at understanding doggy talk and knowing the meaning of different growls. Researchers from Hungary found that women are also better than men at recognizing when a dog was being playful or threatening.
For the study, volunteers listened to recordings of 18 dogs growling when playing a game of tug-of-war, guarding their food, or facing a threatening stranger. People were good at being able to tell the difference in the growls, they got it right 63% of the time.
The listeners were better at recognizing “play” growls - they got those right 81% of the time, but weren’t as good at identifying the good guarding and threatening growls. It turns out, playful growls and food growls have a distinctively different pitch. And when the dogs were playing, their growls were shorter and less separated than when they were scared or aggressive.
Participants were also able to rate growls according to context and identify them according to five emotional states - aggression, fear, despair, happiness, and playfulness. If you feel like you can tell what your dog is feeling or trying to tell you with their growls, you’re probably right!