Dog owners who believe their pets understand what they are saying could be right, according to scientists.

A new study has found that canines can identify when someone new is speaking or when they are hearing a word for the first time.

Researchers from the University of Sussex in the UK have looked at whether domestic dogs could recognise the same word when it’s spoken by different people, including those they have never met.

They then filmed the reaction of dogs when they heard recordings of men and women saying short but similar words.

The study says that the dog recognised the same words as just that and ignored the differences between speakers.

However, the dogs did discriminate between unfamiliar people by the sound of their voice alone.

Dr Holly Root-Gutteridge, who led the research, said: “Until now, the ability to recognise vowels ­spoken by different people was considered to be uniquely human.

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“But many dog owners believe their dogs can learn a word from one person and recognise it when spoken by a second or third person.

“This research shows this spontaneous ability is not uniquely human and that dogs share this talent.”