Dog has learned to "speak" with a soundboard: "Outside. Come now."

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/11/09/dog-has-learned-to-speak-w.html

12 Likes

I’m glad that dogs aren’t a well-ordered set; so I can freely award “best dog” more than once.

33 Likes

it’s hard to know how much of this is researchers seeing what they want to see

but I’m sure there will be plenty of skeptics and haters piling on without my help

three cheers for this wonderful thing :partying_face: :partying_face: :partying_face:

26 Likes

I love this! I’ve been working with one “button” - a tail wag (or lack of wag).

I’ve had my little Maltese for about 12 years, and a few years ago, I realized that he understands a lot of what I say. I work from home and tend to say the same stuff to him day after day, so I guess he picked up the meanings. If I ask him a question he understands and he wags his tail, it means “Yes.” If he stands perfectly still and just looks at me, it means “No.”

(I was disappointed to realize he rarely wants to sit in my lap.)

Sometimes he also does a slow tail wag that I suspect means, “I have no idea what you’re babbling on about, but I’m trying to be supportive.”

30 Likes

Soon…

2e0

38 Likes

Dog body language is fascinating. It’s surprisingly nuanced, but even the gross communication is a lot more than just tail wags. There’s at least a half dozen ways for a dog to wag their tail and only a few of them are really “happy”. There’s also nervous wagging, uncertainty wagging, excited wagging, and wagging in anticipation. And they’re all different! And that’s just the tail!

21 Likes

19 Likes

I’m so grateful to finally have the opportunity to learn out that dogs like balls and going outside.

(Sorry for snark - actually if the dog is communicating as it looks to be doing then that is really a pretty impressive feat and I am actually really impressed. Years of internet means I have pavlovian sarcastic response to everything.)

10 Likes

Someone may have already beat you to that…

https://twitter.com/dog_rates

But this dog definitely gets a 13/10!

10 Likes

So when it’s hungry for Pavlova it rings a bell?

11 Likes

A cat would only need one button - “I don’t care.”

19 Likes

obligatory

38 Likes

It’s cute, and there’s no question dogs can learn words in the “pointing” sense (standing for a person, thing, condition or present-tense activity). So it shouldn’t be a surprise that they can “say” the relevant word if you give them a button for it.

But it’s a big leap to conclude that a doggo is meaningfully using words like “later” and “want”. If you could buy this soundboard commercially, I think it’d just insert stress into the relationship because the human would be all “Coconuts, do you think Dave’s cheating on me??”, and overinterpreting the reply, when the dog is just trying to signal “give food”.

10 Likes

Dog has learned to press buttons on a soundboard.

…and get rewarded when certain ones make more sense. At least that’s what all the videos show, would like to see it compared to what the dog actually wants or sees. Not that I don’t think dogs can learn language, possibly beyond what we expect but this doesn’t show it really. Wish it would stop going around the web uncritically.

10 Likes

But at some level, if the dog is recognizes that he is rewarded differently for “outside”, “ball” and “eat” doesn’t that imply that he “knows” the words? I will say that I am much more suspicious when it comes to verbs and conditions than nouns. The fact that dogs often recognize some words would seem to make it easier for them to associate particular buttons with the meanings because the sound they make resembles speech somewhat.

11 Likes

What’s the matter puppy? What’s the matter Stella?

Stella sad. Stella bury bone in backyard.
Can’t remember where.

5 Likes

Needs a WTF button.

5 Likes

And Stella isn’t even one of the smarter breeds! Quick, someone do this with a border collie and we’ll get that whole “fusion energy” thing figured out!

14 Likes

My cat (siamese mix) attempted to turn on the thermostat last week by trying to press some buttons on it when she was a bit cold

13 Likes

Dogs obviously recognise particular words (“walk”, “food”, “electrodes” etc). They can hold the concept of eating or going for a walk in their lil’ brains even when those things are not actively happening, and they can understand that a certain word correlates with the concept being realised.

So it is not a big stretch to suppose that a dog knows a certain button makes the “food” sound, and if they want food (“if” lol) then they will figure out that pressing the button will make the sound, and the sound will make the thing happen. This is all the most basic indexical (pointing) level of language, requiring only the ability to conceive a thing in its absence and to associate two things with each other.

But to use a concept like “later” requires a lot more sophistication. You can’t point to “later” – it requires being able to conceive the relationship between events as an object in its own right, which I think is beyond dog mental powers. At least in general; there may be tricks dogs can learn, e.g. “later” could just signify “wait for gratification”.

15 Likes