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A man sits with a pet dog near Kim il-Sung square in Pyongyang Ed Jones/AFP


  • Professor Con Slobodchikoff has studied hours of animal behavior footage.
  • Computers may be able to accurately explain what a dog means by a specific bark or growl.

Technology has made significant advances to our lives in recent years, but figuring out why the beloved family pooch peed on the rug is still frustratingly out of our grasp.

That may soon change, however, according to animal behaviour expert Professor Con Slobodchikoff. He hopes his research, along with finding from other academics, will allow pets and their owners to speak using a 'pet translator' in less than ten years' time.

The professor has studied hours of footage of dogs engaged in a wide variety of behaviour - including barking, growling and howling - and is utilising artificial intelligence to understand their communication.

He hopes that by using machine learning, computers will be able to tell us what a dog's growl or wag of the tail really means. Humans will be better equipped to deal with animals in the future if they know exactly what they want, he says.

'You could use that information and instead of backing the dog into a corner, give the dog more space', he told NBC News.

In 2013, Slobodchikoff, who is currently Professor Emeritus at Northern Arizona University, published Chasing Doctor Dolittle: Learning the Language of Animals, a study on the unique language characteristics of animals. In his work, he claims animals and humans will be able to effectively communicate in just ten years' time.

The researcher has spent much of his career studying the behaviour of North American prairie dogs, animals that possess their own complex language system used to communicate complicated commands or instructions. The clever rodents use calls which alert their group to incoming threats – describing specifics such as predator's size and coat colour.

Slobodchikoff thinks that if he cracks their language he will be able to understand the communication of less sophisticated animals.

'I thought, if we can do this with prairie dogs, we can certainly do it with dogs and cats,' he said.