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Why Do Dogs Like Baby Talk?


Do you talk to your dog in a special voice? We do! It's similar to (though not exactly the same as) baby talk -  you know, speaking with higher or exaggerated tones and extra articulation. According to a study by the University of York, dogs actually like it. But why do dogs like baby talk?

The Study

To test out whether dogs like baby talk, University of York researchers played recordings of two different kinds of speech to dogs. One was a normal, adult voice in a conversational tone and the other was "dog-directed speech," which is similar to baby talk. The subject of the speech was also important, with speakers using both dog-related words or phrases (such as "walk" and "treat") and random non-dog-related ones.

The enjoyment was measured based on how long a leashed dog looked at each person while the recording was being played. And then how long the dog, unleashed, spent with each person after the recording was over.

The result? Dogs spent more time looking at and sitting with the person "speaking" in baby talk. Unsurprisingly, dogs showed a strong preference for the dog-related words and phrases. But, interestingly, they liked it most when those terms were spoken in dog-directed speech. The same couldn't be said when the types of tone and content were mixed up. In the latter case, dogs showed no preference for one speaker over the other, suggesting that dogs need to hear dog-relevant terms in higher-pitched tones to find it relevant.

This was especially true for puppies even as young as two months old, more so that adult dogs. It thus begs the question of whether the preference is learned or innate. For example, are puppies born with a preference for higher-pitched noises or do they learn to associate them with positive things?

Overall, though, the study suggested that using baby talk with your dog can improve their attention and strengthen the bond between you two.

Why Dogs Like Baby Talk

So what are some possible reasons that dogs enjoy baby talk so much? Here are some theories:

  1. Attention-grabbing - one of the most common beliefs about why dogs like baby talk is that it grabs the attention of your dog.
  2. Excitement - another theory is that dogs associate the higher-pitched tones and exaggerated emotions with excitement.
  3. Positive association - yet another theory is that humans use this type of talk around positive events and situations, so dogs may learn to associate the sound with something good.

Relationship-Building

In general, dogs like being talked to, even if they can't talk back. Plus it helps them become comfortable with your voice, keeps them engaged, is part of training and - most of all - is just another way you two communicate. So if normal speech can strengthen your bond and improve your relationship, it makes sense that using a tone they enjoy would be even more effective for this. Therefore, if you want to bond with your dog and find a way to tell them you love them, try using dog-directed speech (especially in combination with dog-related content!). 

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