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How to Talk to Your Dog

Do dogs like baby talk?

Do you ever use "baby talk" when you're talking to your dog? It tends to be a little more high-pitched than a person's natural tone and more sing-songy. Baby talk is usually accompanied by more over-the-top facial expressions than a person would typically use when speaking too.

Who's a good boy? You're a good boy!

A recent study indicates that using that type of cadence and tone when talking to your dog might increase the bonding between the two of you.

The Research Studies

A previous research study indicated that puppies responded better to baby talk than to non-baby talk but that adult dogs didn't show that same preference. However, in that study, the speech came over a loudspeaker into the room where the dog was, not from an actual person who was sharing space with the dog.

Researchers in the UK decided to test this further to find out whether the results were different if a person was actually in the room with the dog vs. speaking over a loudspeaker. To do so, they used human volunteers to interact with 37 dogs that were in a boarding kennel in the following way:

A human volunteer would enter a room with a dog and play recorded speech through a recorder that they held on their lap. The recordings they played were of themselves using either baby talk type speech cadence and tone or regular tone and cadence.

The results of this study indicated that dogs, regardless of their age, preferred baby talk over regular speech patterns. They showed this by acting more attentive and approaching the person holding the recorder more often when the baby talk was playing and even after it stopped.

Why Do Dogs Like Baby Talk?

The researchers in the study described above had three ideas about why dogs might prefer baby talk over normal adult speech.

  • High-pitched tones are associated with submission in many types of mammals.
  • As dogs were being domesticated, they might have learned they were safer with people who spoke in higher pitched tones.
  • Dogs may be conditioned to associate baby talk with good things like play sessions and treats because humans tend to use those speech patterns more during those times.

What's the Take-Home Message?

Dogs like it when their humans behave animatedly with them, using baby talk and exaggerated facial expressions. If you communicate with your dog that way, it may increase the bonding between the two of you.

Additionally, it might help to use baby talk when you really need your dog to respond well to you, like if he's loose and you want him to come to you. Regular speech patterns might not get the best response, and he might not come if you sound angry.


References

  1. Slocombe, A. B. (2018, May). 'Who's a good boy?!' Dogs prefer naturalistic dog-directed speech. Retrieved from link.springer.com: DOI: 10.1007/s10071-018-1172-4

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