As dog lovers, we’re probably all guilty of using baby talk around our puppies. We can’t help it. They are so cute, and when we see cute things, sometimes our voices go up, we use simple language, and we make up some silly words and sounds.
For the most part, our dogs don’t seem embarrassed that we are talking like this. Tone matters a lot, and dogs can tell when we’re upset, angry, happy, or ready to give treats and rewards, and baby words are almost always followed by signs of affection.
Any dog parent can tell you that their dog prefers talking about babies to harsh words and yelling. But do dogs like to be talked to like babies and do they take advantage of such talk? How do dogs like us to talk to them?
“Baby Talk” is a speech led by a dog
When we raise the tone of our voices and simplify our language to address our poochs, it is called a “dog-led speech.” It’s very similar to the way we talk to babies.
Research suggests that human babies benefit from this type of speech. It seems to capture their attention more easily and improve their focus on the speaker’s words.
Babies who are spoken to in an infant speech tend to start imitating vowels and develop vocabulary more quickly.
If the same were true for puppies and dogs, we would likely see that dog-led speech would grab their attention and improve their comprehension more than the normal voice we use when speaking to other adult humans.
Does science support this claim?
What does science say?
Research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B shows that dog-led speech actually helps puppies pay more attention to humans talking to them.
The researchers played several different recordings of humans using different tones to say the same phrase and found that the puppies responded more to the dog-led high pitch than the other recordings.
This is helpful to know, as it can help those who wish to train a puppy to follow commands.
Further York University research shows that dogs of all ages are more sensitive to dog-directed speech. Experience has also shown that it is not only important How? ‘Or’ What humans have said things, but what they also said made a difference.
For this study, the researchers asked humans to say common conversational phrases, such as “I went to the movies last night,” to dogs with normal voices and a dog-led tone. Dogs responded more positively to the tone directed by the dog.
Next, the researchers asked humans to speak common conversational phrases in a dog-led tone, and then speak in the same tone with dog-related content and words. Dogs responded the most to content related to dogs.
So it doesn’t matter how we put it. Dogs at least have an idea of what we’re saying, too.
They respond best when humans combine dog-led speech with dog-related content. They want to spend time with humans who talk this way the most.
Talking strengthens your bond
Being able to communicate with your dog is the basis for strengthening your bond. It is very beneficial for training and for expressing your wishes to your puppy.
Dogs are good at understanding humans. They can read our emotions, follow our instructions, and anticipate our desires. This is one of the many reasons we love them so much.
As research shows, talking to dogs in a dog-led speech really does make them want to spend more time with us, And it’s a good thing.
Dogs are also good at match your tone to your actions. When you talk to them in a happy dog-led speech, they probably know affection and rewards will follow soon. When you are harsh, they know you can reprimand them for their behavior.
The next time you talk to your dog, imagine him from his point of view. What associations have they formed with your speech and your words? Do they know the word “veterinarian”? How about “bath?” Do they know how to “walk” or “spoil?” “
Knowing how your dog reacts to your tone and words can help you comfort him when things are scary or when he gets anxious. It can also help you share their joy and excitement.
Non-verbal communication is also important!
With all the research and personal experiences we have when it comes to talking to our dogs, we might start to underestimate the importance of non-verbal communication.
Dogs can understand sign language as well as spoken language, sometimes even more easily. Is there a signed version of dog-led speech that helps dogs pay more attention and strengthens their bond with humans?
I haven’t found any studies that even ask this question, but it’s definitely something to think about, as it could have implications for how we communicate with our dogs non-verbally.
Dogs also use non-verbal communication to find out how we are feeling. They can smell the chemicals we release when we are sick, healthy, happy, anxious, excited, and more. They can learn to follow our body language and react accordingly, just like they do with speech.
In fact, one has to wonder to what extent dogs’ response to our speech is a reaction to speech itself, and to what extent it is learned through associations. Could a dog learn to love being yelled at if it was always followed by affection and treats? Who knows?
In the end, it doesn’t matter much because dogs like what they like, whether learned or innate. But asking these kinds of questions can help us further explore how we can most effectively communicate with our dogs and strengthen our relationships.
Ultimately, non-verbal communication can be much more important than verbal communication.
Research published in the journal Physiology and behavior watched how the dogs responded to greetings after being left alone for a period of time. Humans could either greet the dog with verbal cuddles and praise, simply greet with verbal praise, or not greet the dog at all.
Levels of oxytocin, “the love hormone,” were highest in dogs who received both pets and praise.
It is therefore clear that verbal communication is not the only key to making our dogs happy. There are many ways we need to communicate in order to bond with our puppies.
Your dog can respond
Much of this article has focused on the ways we communicate with dogs, but communication is a two-way street. We also owe it to our dogs to learn how they respond.
Dogs use their own verbal cues through vocalizations, but they also rely on body language.
Sometimes our understanding of our dogs comes naturally. For example, you can probably tell the difference between your dog begging to go out for a potty break and your dog begging for food.
Eventually, you spend enough time with each other to get along without even thinking about it.
It’s a great natural way to communicate with your puppy, and you might not need someone to tell you how to talk to your dog. All of these studies and research efforts, however, can help you think more deeply about this communication.
Maybe it can help you know when to use dog-led speaking to calm your dog down, or maybe it can help with your training efforts. Perhaps learning dog body language can help you more easily determine your dog’s needs.
Be open to learning how you can talk to your dog and how your dog can respond. Your bond with your dog can become stronger than ever if you do.
Here are some resources for understanding how dogs communicate:
Have you ever talked to your dog in a baby voice? How do you think your dog likes to be talked to? Let us know in the comments below!