Computer software is being developed to decipher what dogs are saying when they woof, according to New Scientist.
Scientists at university in Budapest, Hungary recorded 14 sheepdogs barking in a range of situations, such as when approached by a stranger, during play or during a fight, and fed them into a computer system that is able to identify the key audio signature of each.
The results found that not only can individual dogs be recognised by their barks, but certain dog sounds carry common noises that work like a kind of “universal language” recognisable by all the other pooches.
The accuracy of the software was a bit patchy, and correctly identified when a dog was barking at a stranger 63% of the time, but guessed barks during play in only 6% of cases.
The software also varied in its ability to identify individual dogs, depending on the context in which the bark was recorded.
When played samples of dogs barking during play, the software could correctly identify individuals 60% of the time, but it struggled to distinguish between different dogs barking at a stranger – it could do this only 30% of the time.
“In the past, scientists thought that dog barks originated as a by-product of domestication and so have no communicative role,” the lead scientists in the study says. “But we have shown there are contextual differences.”