Dog Science Fair Project: Do Dogs Understand Sounds or Words?
Purpose or Problem
The purpose is to prove that a pet dog who is trained to obey several commands, responds to those commands because of association with the sounds and the action you want from the animal, not because of any understanding of language.
Pet owners who train their dogs to obey several commands naturally use words in their own language. "Sit," "bark," and "roll over" are words those who speak the English language understand. Although a dog may appear as though it understands the meaning of commands, it is merely the sound of these words that produces the appropriate behavior.
Hypothesize that a dog can be trained to obey several command words that are not words in any language, proving the animal is merely associating a particular sound with a particular expected behavior.
- Pet dog
- Book on how to train your dog
- Time and patience training the dog to obey several commands
Decide on several behavioral responses you want to train your dog to accomplish (sit, stay, run, bark, and so on). Then, make up your own words to substitute for these English words. "Vlip," for example, could be "sit." Make up simple one-syllable words.
If you can train your dog to respond to these made-up words, only the two of you (and no one else in the room!) will understand the commands.
Get a good book on how to properly train your dog to obey voice commands.
Just as most people like to be rewarded for their achievements, so do your pets. Rewarding (giving a hug or a treat) is the best motivation for your pet to learn.
Start by giving three rewards when the dog's response to a command is correct: give a pat on the head, say "Good dog!" and give a food treat. As time goes on, don't give food every time. Eventually, just a pat or hearing the tone of your voice saying "Good dog!" will be sufficient to let the pet know you are proud of it.
Time and patience are needed to train your dog, but it will be fun for both of you. The training will seem more like playing together than work.
Write down the results of your experiment. Document all observations and data collected.
Come to a conclusion as to whether or not your hypothesis was correct.
- Children can be bilingual and learn two different words for the same thing. This can happen when one parent or grandparent speaks a different language than the other parent or family members. Can a dog learn more than one command for the same behavior?
- Pet guinea pigs can be taught to squeal and rattle their cages at the sound of chopping carrots on a wood block, in their anticipation of receiving carrot treats. Can they be trained to get equally excited by a voice command indicating a food treat is coming?
- Dolphins learn to do tricks by watching their trainers' hand signals. Can dogs learn commands by hand signals only?
Warning is hereby given that not all Project Ideas are appropriate for all individuals or in all circumstances. Implementation of any Science Project Idea should be undertaken only in appropriate settings and with appropriate parental or other supervision. Reading and following the safety precautions of all materials used in a project is the sole responsibility of each individual. For further information, consult your state’s handbook of Science Safety.