A Woman’s Best Friend? Dogs Prefer Female Speech, Study Shows

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic
yamel photography/Shutterstock

A new study about dogs and the way they perceive our world discovered something a bit unusual. While it confirmed something many pet owners knew from experience – that dog brains are much more sensitive to speech that is directed at them – it unearthed that this is especially true if the speech comes from women. A team of researchers in Hungary conducted an extensive  fMRI study on many trained dogs, revealing striking similarities between infant and dog brains when they are processing exaggerated speech with special stress and intonation of certain words.

Just think about it: when we are trying to  communicate with those who can’t really communicate back on the same level, we tend to use a specific speech style. We exaggerate and act, place stress on certain words, and use our hands as well. It works for infants and helps with their development, but does it work the same way for dogs?

That is exactly what the Hungarian scientists from Hungarian researchers at the Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University tried to answer with their study. As they conducted the fMRI tests on multiple trained family dogs, they experimented with male and female voices, and with infant, dog, and adult-directed speech. What was revealed was truly exceptional. Dogs showed greater brain sensitivity when hearing female voices directed at them – with special intonations and exaggerated prosody. 

"What makes this result particularly interesting is that in dogs, as opposed to infants,” the lead scientist  states“this sensitivity cannot be explained by either ancient responsiveness to conspecific signals or by intrauterine exposure to women's voice. Remarkably, the voice tone patterns characterizing women's dog-directed speech are not typically used in dog-dog communication - our results may thus serve evidence for a neural preference that dogs developed during their domestication."

So, next time you try to talk to your dog and get them to listen, think about changing the way you speak. Imagine you're talking to an infant and utilize the same methods with your pet! Exaggerated prosody seems to do wonders for dogs – so make the most out of it!

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

More by Angela Vuckovic