It’s Actually Dog-Directed Speech
When pet parents speak to their fur babies, while it may sound similar to baby talk, it is actually a bit different. The speech used with dogs is known as “dog-directed speech”. It’s similar to infant-directed speech, except pet parents don’t exaggerate the vowels as they would with a baby. A likely reason for this difference is the unfortunate reality that our dogs can’t talk back to us no matter how well we enunciate. (2)
In an older research study, they looked at how baby talk affected both puppies and older dogs. The baby talk used a higher pitch intonation in the voice than the dog-directed speech. The study found that that puppies responded quite favorably to the baby talk, however, the older dogs did not really have much of a response. It seems as though speaking to your puppy in the baby talk dialect seems to have some sort of positive effect on your puppy. (3)
Updates In Research on Dog-Directed Speech
The newest study by researchers Alex Benjamin and Katie Slocombe, at the University of York in the United Kingdom, gives new information regarding baby talk and our dogs. Researchers designed two experiments allowing humans to interact with dogs. In the first experiment, the researchers tested dog-directed speech versus adult-directed speech (speaking in a normal tone of voice without any type of dog commands).
The second experiment was tailored for dogs both in terms of verbal content and inflection. Dogs were praised and offered things like going for a walk. Between these studies, dogs were spoken to in various tones and with phrases that both did and did not include dog commands. Ultimately, the outcome of the study showed that dogs preferred to be spoken to with the higher-pitched dog-directed speech that included dog commands. (4)
Maybe pet parents intuitively know something about their fur babies. Sure we know they can’t talk back to us when we talk to them. However, we have integrated them into our families and love them just like we love our children. Possibly it’s a comfort thing for each of us to know that at the end of the day we will come home to our fur baby, they will be there – excited to see us and we will talk to them just like we always have. Now we can take some comfort in knowing that they prefer when we talk to them in the special little way we do because we love them so much!