Why can I not talk to my dog over Skype?
There are two possible explanations why your dog struggles to recognise you through the computer or telephone.
Asked by: Jean Hamman, Brighouse
There are two possible explanations why dogs find it hard to hear or recognise your voice over Skype. Firstly, Skype (and voice telephone systems in general) are optimised to transmit frequencies between 500Hz and 4kHz. This provides an acceptable approximation of the frequency range of speech for human ears, but dogs have a much wider hearing range and so clipping the higher frequencies might be more significant to them than it is to us, to the point where Fido no longer recognises your voice.
The second and more fundamental problem is that dogs seem to have only a rudimentary ‘Theory of Mind’ (ToM). This is the cognitive ability to imagine the mental state of others. Without an adequate ToM, your dog might well be hearing your voice, but have no reason to suppose that the disembodied sound is related to you in any way.
Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.
Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.
May Half Price Sale
- Save up to 52% when you subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine.
- Risk - free offer! Cancel at any time when you subscribe via Direct Debit.
- FREE UK delivery.
- Stay up to date with the latest developments in the worlds of science and technology.