Studying speech sound discrimination in dogs.
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Speech sound perception has readily been studied in non-human primates and rats illustrating that we share some of the capabilities underlying speech perception with other animals. However an animal with great potential has been overlooked. Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) share an intimate history with humans that started thousands of years ago. The process of domestication has made dogs highly attuned to our vocalizations and body language and their reputation for being 'man's best friend' is surely not unfounded. In this thesis, I argue that there are great benefits to be obtained from studying speech sound perception in dogs. I suggest using the preferential looking paradigm to do so, which is a method widely used for human infant studies and therefore allows for immediate comparison of results. By conducting a simple experiment of speech sound discrimination, I aim to answer: (1) whether the preferential looking paradigm can be used to study speech sound discrimination in dogs; and (2) whether dogs that have grown up in Dutch-speaking homes can discriminate between the Dutch vowels /a/ and /e/ (embedded in the non-words faap and feep). The answer to both questions is positive, thus opening the way for future research.