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Computer Translates Dog Barks

Can't understand what your dog wants when it barks? A computer may be able to help.

Scientists at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, recorded more than 6,000 barks uttered by 14 individual Mudis, or Hungarian sheepdogs, in six different situations — "stranger," "fight," "walk," "alone," "ball' and "play."

They then fed the sounds to a computer program, which was able to correctly categorize the barks 43 percent of the time — far from perfect, but much better than the 16.7 percent rate that would have arisen by chance.

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The computer had the best results with the "fight" and "stranger" contexts, the worst with "play."

It was also able to pick out individual dogs just by the sound of their barks slightly more than half the time — again, much better than chance.

"Since we have no reasons to say that Mudis are special among other dog breeds, I am pretty sure that this method for categorizing barks could work in other dog breeds' barks as well," study leader Csaba Molnár told London's Daily Telegraph.

The study was published in the journal Animal Cognition.

• Click here for the full story in the Daily Telegraph, and here for a similar writeup in Science Daily.