14 Feb Why Should You Talk to Your Dog?
Why Should You Talk to Your Dog?
Humans have an adorable tendency of using baby talk when speaking to dogs. Saying things like, “Who’s a good boy? Are you a good boy? Yes, you are you’re a good boy” in ridiculous, high pitched voices comes naturally for us when we speak to our canine friends. Interestingly, we use the same kind of talk if we talk to babies. But babies like hearing us talk that way, and it increases the bond between parent and child. Does it work the same way for pets?
As it turns out, yes.
Researchers Alex Benjamin and Katie Slocombe, from the University of York in the United Kingdom, decided to research dog-speak and see if it was enjoyable and useful for the dogs. They wanted to know if it helped the pet and owner bond in a similar way it would improve a parent and child bond. They ended up publishing their findings in Animal Cognition.
To perform the study, they devised two tests. In each trial, dogs were placed before two humans. These humans would say a few words, and then the researchers would see which of the two the dogs wanted to interact with.
In the first trial, one person would speak normally, in a conversational tone. The human would speak about normal human things, like the weather and movies. But the second person would speak in a baby-talk tone of voice, and would say things that dogs are known to respond to, like “who’s a good boy” and “who wants to go for a walk?” After both people spoke, the dog would choose which one of the two to spend time with.
Unsurprisingly, the first trial showed that dogs overwhelmingly preferred to interact with the human who used doggy-related words in a doggy-talk tone of voice. Everyone pretty much expected that. But what compelled the dogs to want to interact with that human? Was it because of the tone of voice, or because of the words that were being said? It was impossible to know from a single test.
For their second trial, the researchers flipped things. One human talked about the weather and the movies, but they said it in a baby-talk tone of voice. The other human said things like “who’s a good boy” and “wanna go for a walk?” but they said it in a conversational tone that they’d use to speak to another human with. Would the dogs be drawn to the tone or the words?
Interestingly, this time the dogs didn’t show a preference for one person over the other. They were stimulated by both the tone of voice and the words that were being said. When they had to choose between one or the other, it was a pretty even split.
This study shows that “doggy talk” is beneficial for dogs, but it’s only half of what appeals to them. They hear the words that you say, and they know which ones they care about. So yeah, your dog totally loves baby-talk, and it totally increases the bond between the two of you. Just don’t go halfway during it. Make sure you say the adorable words your pet loves too.