Ann Taylor, a 23-year-old University of Sussex postgraduate student has launched a study to determine how dogs communicate. She plans to isolate and analyze growls and barks to reveal information about the dogs sizes, sexual aggressiveness, or weights.
Taylor will investigate whether the formants are related to the length of each dogs vocal tract the space that runs from the nasal and mouth cavities to the larynx in the throat and which produces the sounds. Her goal is to find out whether there is a link between the sounds produced and the size and type of each dog, and whether this information is available to human and canine listeners.
Taylor hopes that the project, which is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, will ultimately lead to a better understanding of vocal communication in dogs.
Co-evolutionary theory suggests that the evolutionary history of humans and dogs is inextricably linked, and it may be that domestic dogs vocalize primarily for their human companions, she told the British media.
It would be interesting to test this theory, for example, by modifying the recordings then playing them back to humans and other dogs to see how they respond, hopefully showing which acoustic notes are important for which species.
Owners like to think they know what their dog is saying when it barks. Hopefully, this research will help to reveal scientifically what mans best friend is really communicating, Taylor said.
Posted: March 31, 2006, 5 a.m. EST