Scientists have proved that it’s not just what you say that matters, but it’s how you say it. Interestingly enough, though, their proof wasn’t the result of examining human beings, but dogs.

Researchers in Hungary have confirmed through studies that dogs not only obey commands, but that they understand tone and content. Hungarian researchers scanned the brains of dogs to find out what parts of their brains they use while listening to a trainer or owner.

Their findings revealed that canines use the left hemisphere to process words, and the right hemisphere to process intonation. That’s exactly like people’s brains.

Also fascinating is that the study showed that if a person’s intonation and remarks to a dog were both positive, then what was registered in the dog’s brain is praise. The dog’s brain did not register the same effect if a trainer spoke to the animal in babble but an encouraging voice, or if a trainer’s words meant something, but he spoke in a neutral voice. So we are talking about pretty sophisticated processing.

The findings, published in the journal Science, underscore what mothers have been telling their children for decades: It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Lead researcher Attila Andics, a neuroscientist at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, said that “(d)ogs brains care about both what we say and how we say it. Praise can work as a reward only if both word meaning and intonation match.”

So the next time you speak to your canine buddy, watch what you say and how you say it. This study proves that most dogs are more nuanced and subtle listeners than many politicians and political commentators.