Baby-Talking Dogs Might Be Annoying. Science Says Do It Anyway
— LumiNola/E+/Getty Images
You’re either the type of dog owner who talks to their pup in cutesie baby talk, or you’re the type of dog owner who hates people who do it. You may not be “wrong” if it’s your opinion that baby-talking dogs is annoying — but according to recent research, you may be doing your dog a disservice if you don’t.
In a new study published in the journal Communications Biology, researchers from Hungary’s Eötvös Loránd University, the Research Centre for Natural Sciences, and the Eötvös Loránd Research Network wanted to learn about how we can better communicate with our canine friends — and specifically, whether the tone of our voice matters when we do so. They found that dogs respond very well to that high-pitched, baby-talk voice. They also found that when we speak to our dogs in that tone, annoying or not, it leads to better communication between us and our dogs.
The research team used brain scans on trained family dogs. During the scans, the pups listened to speech recordings from 12 men and 12 women, tailored to either other adults, infants, or dogs. The goal was to document the dogs’ brains’ reactions to different types of speech — from human to adult, human to dog, woman to infant, and more. That data was then compared to data collected from previous studies examining how a similar tone of voice impacted human babies.
The researchers found that when people talk to dogs like they would to babies, certain parts of the dog’s brain are more active, compared to when they talk to other adults in a normal tone of voice. It’s the first time researchers have seen this happen in a dog’s brain. It shows that dogs pay special attention to the way we talk to them, and that they are very sensitive to our tone of voice.
“Studying how dog brains process dog-directed speech is exciting because it can help us understand how exaggerated prosody contributes to efficient speech processing in a nonhuman species skilled at relying on different speech cues (e.g. follow[ing] verbal commands),” Anna Gergely, co-first author of the study said to Salon.
Another interesting finding in the study is that dogs were found to listen even better when it was women who were talking to them like babies versus men. So, it seems like the way we talk to our furry friends really does make a difference. In other words: keep baby-talking that dog!
This finding adds to previous research on dog training that shows we may have more influence on the personality of our dogs than we previously thought. That study, published in the journal iScience in May 2023, highlighted the crucial role of early socialization for dog behavior, noting that well-socialized puppies, regardless of their breed, were found to show lower insecurity and aggressiveness/dominance behaviors, as well as higher training focus and sociability with dogs and humans. The researchers emphasized the importance of positive, puppy-friendly socialization experiences.
So, lots of puppy playtime and unabashedly speaking to your furbaby in a cutesy baby voice and you’re on your way to a happy, well-behaved dog who listens to you. Don’t let the haters get you down.