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and the dog says...

FOR CENTURIES, dog owners have always said they can understand what their dog is saying to them. But now science has muscled in and the nuances of a dog's barks, howls, yaps and growls can now apparently be discerned and translated by a new computer program developed by Hungarian scientists.

The software is said to distinguish the emotional reaction of 14 dogs of the Hungarian Mudi breed.

After analysing 6,000 barks, it aims to determine when a dog has seen a ball, when it is fighting, playing, meeting a stranger or when it wants a walk.

But the scientists admit the technology only just out-performs humans.

While the computer correctly recognised the emotional state of 43% of dogs, humans did almost as well by correctly guessing the emotional state of 40% of dogs.

But the author of the research - Csaba Molnar, from Eotvos University in Budapest - says the software can be improved, and claimed that it may have applications for analysis of human communication.

‘I would say that we proved there are very strong contextual differences between the barks, but that very long further work is needed to determine which emotional states and which characteristics belong to each (different breed).

He added: ‘In the future we can use this software for any other vocal or any other signal categorisation.’

The scientist also believes that later versions of the software could help owners and dog trainers identify more about dogs' well being.

‘A possible commercial application could be a device for dog-human communication,’ the scientist told Reuters news agency.