Could AI be able to decipher what your dog is trying to tell you?

Excited dog with tongue hanging out
(Image credit: Getty Images)

These days, artificial intelligence is everywhere. It’s difficult to escape AI imagery online, while it seems as though everyone is using software like ChatGPT to make their lives easier. 

AI is even starting to influence how we interact with our pets. From the best dog toys to useful tools that can help us care for our pets, AI is popping up in more and more places. 

But could AI even help us understand what our dogs are trying to tell us?  

Well, researchers at the University of Michigan are developing tools that could help us decipher our dogs’ barks, to better understand what they’re trying to communicate. The models they’re working on, in collaboration with Mexico’s National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics (INAOE), can help us tell an animal’s age, breed, and sex, as well as whether their bark signifies playfulness or aggression, for example. 

Their study has found that AI models originally trained on human speech can be used as a good starting point to train new systems targeting animal communication.

Rada Mihalcea, the Janice M. Jenkins Collegiate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, and the director of Michigan’s AI Laboratory, explains in a press release, “By using speech processing models initially trained on human speech, our research opens a new window into how we can leverage what we built so far in speech processing to start understanding the nuances of dog barks.

"There is so much we don't yet know about the animals that share this world with us. Advances in AI can be used to revolutionize our understanding of animal communication, and our findings suggest that we may not have to start from scratch." 

One of the biggest obstacles to developing AI models that can analyze animal sounds is the lack of data – in contrast to human speech, it’s more difficult to collect this sort of data from animals. For this reason, we know a lot more about how to read dog body language than we do their vocalizations. 

This is why researchers repurposed an existing model designed to analyze human speech. It allowed them to make the most of models we still rely on as the backbone of technologies like language translation and voice-to-text. The models are trained to identify nuances in human speech – tone, pitch, and accent, for example – and convert the information into a format that a computer can use. 

We might not be able to find out exactly what our dog is saying – after all, they just don’t use language in the way that we do! However, we should be able to have a much better idea, and this will only help us bond with and care for our four-legged pals. And in the meantime, you might find this article useful: I learned these five dog body language cues and they changed my relationship with my dog.

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering pets, lifestyle, health and culture, and he has six years' experience in journalism. He was senior editor at, and has written for The Independent, GoodToKnow and Healthline

He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' golden retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.