Study: Dog-Speak Improves Bond Between Dogs and Humans

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
Experts at the University of York in the UK have found that using ‘dog-speak’ when talking to your pooch is an important part of creating the bonding process between humans and their pups.

So, though I am no scientist, I can’t say this is news to me! I’ve always been one of those ‘annoying’ people who sort of did ‘baby-talk’ with all of my pets.

Turns out, scientists at the University of York think I’ve been right on track, saying that communicating with dogs in a way that is similar to ‘baby-talk’ with babies and adults is an important part of the bonding process between dog and human.

Related: How to Teach Your Dog to Speak

The researchers used previous research that suggests communicating with higher-pitched voices and over-excited emotion (similarly to how humans do with babies) often improved the engagement puppies had with humans as the basis for their theory that this ‘dog-speak’ is part of the social bonding process between pet and owner.

They looked at whether we do this with dogs because we like to treat them as we treat human babies/children, or if there really was a benefit to dogs (or humans) in some way.

Dr. Katie Slocombe is from the University of York’s department of psychology and said that in humans, infant-directed speech is a special speech register that helps humans and their babies bond. In a similar way, this type of speech also can be seen in humans and their dogs, and is known as dog-directed speech.

She says that though it is common between dogs and their humans in western civilizations, there hasn’t been much research done that shares whether or not it really makes a difference in dogs or their humans.

Adult dogs listened to an adult using dog-directed speech like, “You’re a good dog,” and “Shall we go for a walk,” and listened to another adult using regular speech and no-dog related content (like “I went to the movies last night.”).

They then looked at how the dogs paid attention, and then what human the dogs wanted to engage.

Then, they mixed the speakers with the dog-directed speech and non-dog-related topics as well as regular speech with dog-related topics to look at what exactly it was that the dogs were attracted to—the words or the tone of speech.

Related: Study: Dogs Understand Us When We Speak in Positive and Negative Tones

They found that the adult dogs preferred the speakers who used dog-directed speech and dog-related content, though when the speech/content were mixed up, the dogs had no preference. They believe this suggests the dogs prefer dog-speak and dog-related content for relevancy.

So, you go right on ahead and tell those good boys and girls how good they are…and be sure to use all the ooey, gooey talk you want. They love it!

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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