Computer Software Decodes Dog Barking

Dog barkingNot sure what your dog’s barking always means? Is he hungry? Does she need to go outside? Or does he just want to talk to someone?

A new study involving computer software is breaking down what a dog’s barking means and how they communicate with us and canine friends.

Computer software is able to distinguish individual dogs by their barks and suggests that specific barks are like a “universal language” which can be used with other dogs.

A research team at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, recorded 6,000 barks of 14 Hungarian sheepdogs in a range of situations: when approached by a stranger, during play, during a fight, and when the dog was alone.

The recordings of the barks were then put through an artificial neural network which identified key audio features of each bark. The research team found that the software could identify the situation in which the dog’s bark was recorded.

The software was able to correctly identify a dog barking at a stranger in 63% of the cases, but it could only correctly identify a dog’s bark while playing only 6% of the time.

Also, 60 percent of the time, the software was able to distinguish between different dogs barking while they were playing, but while dogs were barking at strangers, the software was able to only distinguish individual dogs about 30 percent of the time.

The leader of the research team said, “In this context, every dog barks singularly. But in a play situation, there has been no strict selection for creating a uniform bark among dogs, so each has its own individual style.”

Juliane Kaminski of the Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, Germany, said, “In play situations, dogs have many opportunities to learn something about the correlation between their vocalizations and the human’s behaviour: ‘which variation in my bark elicits what type of behaviour in the human? In fight situations, the dog barks aggressively and the human runs away, end of story.”

Brian Hare at Duke University added, “People used to say dogs are really boring because they were artificially created by humans. But actually that’s exactly why they’re really cool.”

Source: ABC News

9 Responses to “Computer Software Decodes Dog Barking”

  1. shibadiva says:

    Interesting. Reading Temple Grandin and Jeffrey Masson about the complexities of animal language (including the distinctive use of nouns, verbs and adjectives), as well as Matthew Scully’s revelations about those folks who deem animals inferior because they don’t have human language.

    And now some clever folks (maybe borderline Asperger’s) have figured out how to program a computer so it can recognize patterns of animal language, while many of the rest of us just look at Fido and don’t get what he’s telling us.

    Perhaps it’s our big forebrains that give us our communications problems…

  2. Linda's Cats says:

    As a linguist, I’m highly dubious a computer will ever get to a point it can tell what a dog is “saying”. Animals DO have complex patterns in their proto-language; they do have a strong variety of needs to communicate; and they have variety from animal to animal and day to day. The same way you or I could say the name of our daughter 15 differnt ways, and make it mean 15 different things depending on tone, non-verbal cues, interaction, situation, etc.

    Can the computer pick up on levels of anxiety and importance in a bark? Sure, so can we. But can it tell that “Fido says get out of bed cause I’m bored” vs., “Fido says get out of bed cause I’m sorta hungry” vs., “Fido says get out of bored cause I saw a squirrel”, not likely.

    But if the research proves that dogs use similar codes of bark to warn other dogs (and their ‘other dog people’) of danger, of course. But any doggy parent already knows that, cause we know immediately when our baby is having a good time, vs when they are telling us to get the hell out of the house.

  3. kaefamily says:

    In our household we recognize the following barks from our mutts:
    1- I am bored. Let’s go to the park!
    2- I am hungry. Is dinner ready?
    3- It’s the neighbor’s annoying dog/cat!
    4- There is a weirdo in our yard!
    5- You want me to do what?
    6- You’ve gotta be kiddin’!

    :-)

  4. Dennis says:

    Bow Wow…

    The last time I recall hearing about a “dog translator”, it was a Japanese invention back in 2001 called Bow-Lingual by Takara Corp. They translate based upon breed and handled about 200 words. It was a small unit for sale and they had intent to make it work with a cell phone. For such a device to work, it would necessarily be computerized and do software decoding. This expands on that concept. And there was one for cats - Meow-Lingual.

  5. shibadiva says:

    Dennis, LOL! Gadgets for communication-impaired humans with more money than sense.

    I’m with Linda’s Cats on the subject. When will the scientists “get” what we sentimental, anthropomorphizing pet parents knew ages ago?

  6. straybaby says:

    ok, i’ll admit it. i’m partial to that Dal pic. why? because i have a Dal and most of the time i can understand what she’s trying to say. the only time i can’t, is when she looks like that while i’m on a conference call for work. but i don’t think a translator would help. methinks she’s just participating in her own silly way. and it has been reinforced by much laughter from all parties involved. i really should tape the vocalizing though. she has quite a variety and range . . lol!~

    i do find it interesting that folks feel the need to develop translators. just get to know your pet, it’s generally obvious if you pay attention ;)

  7. G in INdiana says:

    We’ve always had quiet dogs until we got our Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. He has so many facial, body, and verbal expressions it is hard to keep track of them all. He isn’t the brightest dog we’ve ever had, but he is definitely the most vocal in both quality and quantity.
    Translating a dog’s language is not just the sounds, it is also the body language and eyes. One bark can mean different things depending on what position the tail is at or the opening of the eyes. For our Loki, if his tail is straight up and his eyes slanted the bark means something BAD is going on. Open the eyes and wag the tail and it is time for a ride in the car.
    NO computer can translate tail and eyes.

  8. furmom says:

    How come humans can’t seem to learn to understand Dogspeak, but dogs understand what we are saying, and can even read our minds? What does a computer program do with dogs of different language backgrounds? Our German Shepherds barked in German, and understood English and German. Our dogs even understand when I am swearing over something and come to help (humans are so helpless in the face of technology you know). On the other hand they know when we are swearing at them, and clear the decks!

  9. Inu says:

    But I think you don’t see the bigger picture. It is common language that unifies, in our case it set humans on a mutual path to shape the world instead of just being cavemen. If we can create on a smaller scale a common language between us and our dogs it will make for a much deeper connection and richer interaction with them.if they could tell us they don’t like the chicken flavor as much as the beef, or scratch between my shoulders mommy. “I have to go right now!” that one would have helped us out when they were puppies huh.


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