"Rather than a, 'Hey, it's a snake,'" she said, "It's a, 'Hey, look over here,' so everyone just looks. It's probably not referential," meaning it doesn't get a singular response in the animal world. "Our paper basically said that, OK, there is a function [to the barking], but the function is ancestral.''
To illustrate her point, Lord cites the example of monkeys in the wild who make a unique noise to signal to one another the presence of eagles overhead. On the contrary, Lord says, dogs bark to convey "internal feelings rather than a specific message."
Additionally, said Dr. Rolan Tripp of AnimalBehavior.net, because dogs are roughly at the emotional level of toddlers, "translating" their barks wouldn't actually provide much insight into their mental makeup.
So a device like the Bowlingual Voice, said Tripp, doesn't mark a breakthrough in our understanding of dogs.
"If you could hear from your 3-year-old every time they utter a sound," he said, "would you want to be interrupted at work for that?"