Are you looking for ways to build a better relationship with your dog? Research has found that the best way to gain your pooch’s love and affection is to use baby-talk – a lot!
Two scientists at the University of York in the United Kingdom set out to investigate if “dog-speak” improves social bonding between pets and humans, whether it is beneficial for dogs, and if dogs are influenced by the type and content of the communication.
Their findings were then published in the journal Animal Cognition.
The duo recruited 37 pet dogs from York, England. They leashed the pets and brought them into a room with the two people, where the animals heard two types of recorded speech – “dog-directed” and “adult-directed”.
What exactly is the difference between the two, you may ask? Dog-directed speech is similar to how humans speak to babies – using a higher pitch, slower tempo, and more precise articulation of vowels but without vowel exaggeration. On the other hand, adult-directed speech is the way you would normally speak to your grown counterparts.
Benjamin and Slocombe measured the dogs’ attention spans during the two speech types. Phrases such as “you’re a good dog!” and “shall we go for a walk?” were used.
Next, another person spoke to the dogs in a normal voice about non-dog-related content, for example, “I went to the cinema last night”. After all the phrases, the dogs were invited to choose which speaker they wanted to interact with.
The scientists found the dogs were more likely to want to spend time with the speaker who had used both “dog-directed” speech and dog-related content. However, when the different types of speech were mixed up, dogs did not show a preference for either speaker.
“This suggests that adult dogs need to hear dog-relevant words spoken in a high-pitched emotional voice in order to find it relevant,” said Benjamin, adding that more research is needed to see whether this preference is innate or learned – or some combination of the two.
So, the next time someone makes fun of you for communicating with your dog in baby talk, you can tell them to go boo themselves, because science is on your side.