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Baby Talk Works Wonders on Puppies

February 01, 2017

Baby Talk Works Wonders on Puppies

We all know what baby talk is… It’s that high-pitched, slow and exaggerated way we talk to infants and babies. Scientists call this universal way of speaking ‘infant-directed speech’ and discovered a long time ago that it helps babies focus and learn language faster.

It turns out puppies also prefer baby talk.

Researchers from City University of New York (USA), University of Lyon/Saint-Etienne (France) and University of Sussex (UK) researched the effects of ‘baby talk’ on puppies and older dogs. 30 female volunteers were recorded speaking normally to other humans, to pictures of puppies, to pictures of adult dogs, and to pictures of senior dogs. The female participants used phrases like “Hi! Hello cutie!”, “Who’s a good boy?” and “Come here!”. In all cases, the women used 'dog-directed speech', or friendly and slow sing-song voices, when addressing the dog photos. The women’s vocal pitches were 21% higher when addressing puppy pictures. The researchers then played back the recordings to a group of puppies, adult dogs, and senior dogs.

In every case, the puppies were very responsive to higher pitched dog-directed speech; they becoming happy and playful while hearing the recordings. The puppies were much less enthused when listening to recordings of women speaking normally to other adults. As for the adult and senior dogs, they were barely responsive to dog-directed speech even though the female volunteers specifically directed it towards them.

What are the main takeaways? First, only puppies are highly responsive to dog-directed speech, as opposed to adult dogs, and vocal pitch plays a significant role in this language. Trying to train your puppy or get him or her to focus? Use a higher-pitched, sing-song voice to get and hold his or her attention.

Second, humans commonly and ineffectively use dog-directed speech when addressing adult and senior dogs. Truth is, it has very little effect on getting their attention and maintaining focus.

The study was published earlier this week by the Proceedings of Royal Society B. Click here to view the original report published by the Proceedings of Royal Society B



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