Do dogs really prefer baby talk?

Who’s a good girl? You are! Yes you are! Yes you are! Ummm, do you even know what I’m saying? If you’re one of the millions of dog owners who talk to mans best friend like this, you’re not alone.

But how effective is it? Do you want to have a real conversation with your dog?

At times, you might feel silly or a little embarrassed to talk to your dog in a high-pitched, baby-like voice. But don’t be! Talking to your pets as if they’re human is a sign of high intelligence.

It’s known as anthropomorphizing, which is when you consider something that isn’t human to have human characteristics. So although talking to your golden retriever like a baby might make you feel stupid, you’re really smart!

And even if we wanted to stop talking this way, it would be pretty difficult. And here’s why. A 2017 study asked 30 women to record their voice while reading phrases you might say to a dog, like “Hi cutie, who’s a good boy?”

The women recorded the phrases while looking at pictures of dogs and humans. When they looked at a pictures of humans, their voice was normal, but as they looked at pictures of dogs and puppies, their voice got higher-pitched and more baby-like.

Talking to dogs like this is natural for us, and it’s not because we’re so overwhelmed with their cuteness that we just can’t help it. Well, there might be a little bit of that… But it’s also because talking to them like this is the best way for them to understand us.

Dogs are incredibly attentive animals. Notice how whenever you talk to your dog they look at you as if they’re listening? You typically don’t get that with your cat, guinea pig or any other housepet.

Amazingly enough, even monkeys, the animals most similar to humans won’t look at you when you speak. Oh, and when dogs tilt their heads and perk up their ears when you’re talking to them? That’s not just for looks; it’s them trying to understand what you’re saying. Wait, I’m anthropomorphizing there, why would a dog do anything “for looks?”

Just because they’re trying to understand what you’re saying doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re interested in discussing the current political climate or what happened between you and Jean at work. A 2018 study out of Emory University found out that dogs are most likely listening and responding to us in hopes of making us happy, or in hopes of getting some food.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t understand, or don’t have their own language that they like to be spoken to in. A study from the University of York in England learned that talking to your dog with dog-directed speech and dog-related words is the best way to speak to them.

In other words, asking your dog “hey boy, want to go for a walk?!” Is much more appealing to them than saying “I just picked up groceries.”

Here’s the thing though, you can’t trick them and just talk about picking up groceries in a high-pitched tone, and then expect your dog to get all excited. The study concluded that you have to use both dog speech and dog-related words for it to work.

Although it may seem obvious, the study found that talking like this is the best way to get your dog to listen to you. What’s less obvious is that it also creates a stronger bond between you and your pet.

So if you’re someone who talks to your dog as if you’re talking to a baby, you’re doing it right! And if you don’t, you should probably start.

Another tip for all you dog owners out there: listen to your dog. The length, strength and pitch of your dog’s barking can tell you so many things about your little buddy, and help the two of you communicate better.


Sources

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