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Dogs know when you're speaking a different language — and talking nonsense

Now, while working from home and spending more time with our pets, perhaps we've reached a form of understanding that crosses the linguistic barrier.

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As a kid, I thought Dr. Dolittle had a pretty good gig.

The idea of being able to speak to creatures in their own distinct language was a thrilling prospect. And then there were veterinarians like Dr. James Herriot and his treasury of tales that showed he truly understood the nature of animals.

Now, while working from home and spending more time with our pets, perhaps we've reached a form of understanding that crosses the linguistic barrier.

There are times when you just know your pet is trying to say something — like when my cat wants to eat something different or listen to the dulcet tones of a British period drama (she prefers "Downton Abbey").

But even more fascinating is the idea that we're not entirely different — that we share things in common, some of which used to be considered strictly human qualities. By recognizing our own traits in animals, we can understand them better.

Each year brings more scientific revelations supporting these similarities, and the start of 2022 is no exception.

Fantastic creatures

Imagine lying down with headphones on, the words of "The Little Prince" floating through your ears. Then, the words are repeated in an unfamiliar language, followed by nonsense words. You're in an MRI machine, and inside your head, your brain is lighting up in response to the familiar and the unfamiliar. Oh, and you're a dog.

When neuroethologist Laura Cuaya moved from Mexico to Hungary with her border collie, Kun-kun, she was driven to discover whether he could detect the language difference.

The result: Cuaya's study of 18 dogs, monitored inside fMRIs, demonstrated that the canine brain indeed recognized these changes.

That makes dogs the first nonprimates shown to possess spontaneous language ability. So, if you're streaming subtitled shows from other countries, Fido can tell.

Watch the video above for more on this story.