3 recent discoveries have upended scientists’ understanding of how dogs age, navigate, and perceive human speech

husky dog doing trick giving paw shaking hand

Summary List Placement
Three recent discoveries have changed scientists’ understanding of the nature of dogs.
One study found that young puppies age much faster than young humans do, so the common rule of thumb that one “dog year” is equivalent to seven “human years” is wrong.
Other recent research reveals that dogs understand human speech in the same way we do.
Findings also suggest dogs may use Earth’s magnetic field to navigate.

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It often seems impossible to know what’s going on in Fido’s head as he lounges on his dog bed.

But a handful of new studies offer surprising new insights about how our canine companions age, perceive human speech, and find their way home.

A study published last month showed that dogs understand verbal communication just like we do: They parse out tone then meaning as separate aspects of human speech. 

Dogs may also use Earth’s magnetic field like a compass to find their way home, other recent research revealed.

And another study published this summer found that puppies age much faster than older dogs do — which means you’re probably underestimating your dog’s human-age equivalent.

Taken together, these recent discoveries may change how you understand your pet.

We’ve been underestimating our dogs’ ages

Dogs live an average of 12 years. Human life expectancy, by contrast, is at least five times that, which is why many people go by the common rule of thumb that one “dog year” is equivalent to seven “human years.”

But that one-to-seven ratio is wrong, researchers found — it’s a misunderstanding of how dogs’ aging processes compare to those of humans. Instead, according to a July study, genetic evidence suggests that Labrador puppies and other young dogs age faster than their older counterparts.

“What’s surprising is exactly how old a 1-year-old dog is — it’s like a 30-year-old human,” Trey Ideker, a co-author of that study, said in a press release. 

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But after that first year or two, dogs age more slowly as time passes — or rather, their cells do. So for each year older a dog gets, the corresponding increase in “human years” gets smaller. A 12-year-old Labrador is 70 human years old, the study found.

Ultimately, in order to calculate your dog’s human-age equivalent, you’ll need a calculator. The researchers’ formula is: A dog’s human age = 16 ln * your dog’s age + 31. (The ln refers to the natural log of a number.)

Dogs understand speech in the same way we do

When humans hear someone speak, our brains divide the work if processing that verbal communication between the left and right hemispheres. First, the right hemisphere focuses on parsing out the speaker’s underlying tone, then the left hemisphere processes the meaning of what we’ve heard.

Researchers discovered in 2014 that dogs’ brains divvy up the task of speech processing in the same way, between their left and right hemispheres, though the scientists weren’t sure of the order in which that happened.

The recent study, however, found …read more

Source:: Business Insider – Science

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