February 12, 2019

How to Talk to Your Dog: Is Baby Talk a Good Idea?

man talking to dog in baby voiceIn some families, one of the most volatile debates in pet ownership is whether or not you should talk to your dog in that cooing baby voice, usually reserved for actual babies or your partner when they’re feeling sick. Perhaps not the latter, but you catch the meaning. Read on to learn more about how to talk to your dog!

Who hasn’t seen an owner with their new pet talking to them as if they’re the cutest thing in the newborn nursery? Even mature dogs can get a taste of the soothing (or annoying depending on how you look at it) baby voice that is used as the ultimate form of verbal affection between a dog and its owner.

Because your dogs can’t state their preference on the matter, we have to look to research to show us whether or not your dog actually likes this form of communication. You might be surprised at the results. The question is: Does your dog prefer baby treatment? 

Benefits of Talking to Your Dog Like It’s Their First Day Of School

Baby talk can be soothing for you, in that you can completely immerse yourself in the blissful embarrassment of pet ownership, without judgment from your dog. (Jury’s still out on the people around you though.)

It can also be a robust verbal starter pack if you’re preparing to have kids of your own. Almost every language uses baby talk – not to mention our predecessors – apes. It’s the ideal way to teach a younger mammal the basics of a language, so why not your dog?

Dogs and humans see things differently, as well as hear things differently. What does that mean for their actual reaction to being talked to like a small toddler? Surprisingly, studies show that dogs really like being spoken to in this manner, as the tone indicates gentle affection.

Because dogs react to tones rather than to words, the way something is said is more vital to their obedience and well-being than what is actually said, as long as you keep in some dog-centric words.

How to Talk to Your Dog: Dog-Directed vs Adult-Directed Speech

According to the study published in Animal Cognition and later quoted by Elite Daily, “The results of the study revealed the adult dogs were significantly more responsive when a person spoke to them using [Dog-Directed Speech] rather than [Adult-Directed Speech].”

The difference in the two modes of speaking is that the Dog-Directed Speech was tonally more similar to baby talk, while the Adult-Directed Speech would be more closely related to how two humans would talk to each other. 

The study also showed that puppies who were often talked to using DDS during their puppy years were more likely to react well to it as adult dogs. Whereas, adult dogs who didn’t have experience with DDS were less likely to be affected by it.

The kinds of words being used are also important, whether in DDS or ADS. More dog-centric words like “walk” and “good boy” were more likely to get a dog’s attention. The best result in gaining the continued attention of a dog was to use both dog-centric words and DDS. How to talk to your dog and get their attention is all about the baby talk!

cute puppy and baby sitting on blanket having baby talk time

How to Talk to Your Dog When They Won’t Pay Attention to You!

If you are in a situation where you really need or are having difficulty getting the attention of your pet, the combination of both dog-centric words and a baby voice is the most likely to get the job done.

Back to the subject of puppies. We’re not exactly sure why dogs would prefer to be talked to like babies, (besides that it’s fun).

However, most research shows that dogs are actually conditioned over time to take this high pitch as the precursor for cuddles, walks, treats and general positive reinforcement. If a high tone of voice signals all the fun things there are about being a dog, why wouldn’t they prefer this tone?

Often, we talk to babies or puppies in this high-pitched tone without even realizing it. So if you’ve had some friends staring at you, slack-jawed after a full-on baby talk interaction with your pup, you might not have even noticed how long the interaction went on. It’s okay. That’s normal.

Tone is Everything: The Softness Factor

There’s also the softness factor. There’s more to how to talk to your dog than simply the words you use! A high tone of voice hits the ears subtly and indicates an air of affection immediately. We reserve this tone for babies and for our doggy loved ones, and that’s probably why. We want them to feel the love in every sense of the word, even if it’s just “good boy” or “good morning.”

Dogs are totally okay with baby talk! In fact, they prefer it. Everyone needs a little coddling from time to time. If you’re a baby talker, then keep it going. 

Baby Talk Can Improve Your Bond

Aside from your dog loving being talked to in this affectionate way, research shows this form of communication can also strengthen the bond between you and your dog.

There’s a deeper seeded reason you use this same tone of voice for both dogs and babies. In fact, the technique used for actual baby talk, IDS, or Infant-Directed Speech, is very similar to DDS in tone.

Dogs bond in a similar way that babies do, through extensive and affectionate interaction. This goes for a gentler, more high-pitched tone of voice, as well as lots of cuddling and eye contact.

A strengthened emotional bond will ensure that you and your dog get along and have a deeper relationship. This will be very important to the years of companionship you can share.  

Don’t Worry About the Baby Talk; Embrace It!

What’s the matter if people around you are looking at you strangely? How to talk to your dog has little to do with them! You and your dog have something they just don’t understand. If it’s better for your dog’s obedience, your emotional bond, and is unconsciously done, or let’s face it, pretty much necessary when it comes to the cited factor, baby talk is here to stay.

Don’t worry about alienating the people around you. You’ve got bigger things to worry about, like your dog’s well-being. Now, “Who’s a good boy?”. 

The training, bonding, and response evoking benefits of using a baby voice with your dog is clearly an advantage.

If you are in a debate with your home’s cohabitants or spouse about the topic, a simple test of putting the dog in between the two of you and having one person use their normal speaking voice and the other a baby voice and see who the dog goes too.

This will almost always result in “baby voice wins”. It is the clearest example of the power of voice tone with dogs there is.

Serious pup parent points to you if you are taking the time to learn more about how to talk to your dog!

Author Bio:

Simon, a lifelong dog owner, and animal social worker is the owner of Dogviously. A resource of dog ownership and product advice created by their team of 5, with over 50 years of combined experience working with dogs and other animals.

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