We’re all guilty of it. No matter how much we criticize others for doing it, secretly we do it too. I’m talking about “baby-talking.” But not to babies – “baby-talking” to our dogs. You know, that higher-pitched, cutesy voice. Yes, I do it, you do it, and I’m pretty sure even that grumpy guy at the coffee shop does it too.
A researcher wanted to find out once and for all if talking to our dogs in that baby-talk voice actually makes a difference. She devised a couple different tests, and in a nutshell, yes, baby-talk actually interests our pups. The tests were a little more complicated than what I’m about to explain, but hey, I’m paraphrasing here. Test one involved using the baby-talk voice to say things to dogs like “you’re a good dog” and “shall we go for a walk?” Then, using a regular voice, random meaningless phrases were said to the dogs, like “I went to the movies last night.” Later tests reversed the phrases, so “I went to the movies last night” in baby-talk, and “you’re a good dog” in regular speech. It turned out that dogs were most attracted both dog-directed words (walk, play, food, etc) AND baby-talk, especially when used together. Regular random phrases were most ignored – which means our dogs can actually tell the difference between when we’re talking TO them, rather than AT them.
“We’ve shown that dogs are sensitive to this type of speech and it might be useful to use when you meet a dog for the first time, or if you are interacting with a friends’ dog, for example… And if you already use baby talk with your own dog, you can use this study to justify that you aren’t being a ‘crazy dog mom!’,” says researcher Alex Benjamin. Can we just ask how we can get involved with studies like this? Next to playing music for you, that sounds like a pretty awesome job. “What do you do for a living?” “Oh, you know, I baby-talk to dogs for science. No big deal.” Check out a bit more on the research here, and enjoy making sure your dog gets to hear the baby-talk voice.