Does Your Dog Respond Better When You Use a Baby Voice?

People tend to do this weird thing when they
meet a dog — we call them strange names like sweetie-face and ask them if they know
they’re so cute! — in that odd, slow tempo, higher pitched speech pattern we also use
with babies. It’s actually a real thing called Pet Directed
Speech or PDS. And a lot of us do it. I know I do. I talk to Pete differently when I’m leaving
than I do when we’re hanging out cuddling. But he’s a cat so it’s moot… But I do wonder if he notices or cares, and
likewise, if dogs care about how their owners talk to them? A study looked at how owners talk to their
dogs, specifically female owners. In this study, 34 adult women were recorded
interacting with their dogs in four instances: before being separated, reuniting after said
separation, playing, and giving commands. They found the intricacies of PDS changed
— the women used a lower pitch before separation, a high pitch upon reuniting, a questioning
tone during play, and imperatives in giving commands coupled with attention-getting measures. Female owners, the study found, adapt their
verbal cues to the situation, giving their pet hints about their intentions and emotions. But does this really mean that pets care about
your tone of voice? Maybe not. Another study recorded women delivering a
set line — “Hi! Hello cutie! Who’s a good boy? Come here! Good boy! Yes! Come here sweetie pie! What a good boy!” — to pictures of puppies,
adult dogs, and old dogs, then analyzed the quality of their speech to find people use
a higher pitch with puppies. The recordings were then played back to dogs
alongside normal speech to gauge reactions. The researchers found that puppies reacted
more to dog-directed speech, specifically that higher pitch got their attention whereas
older dogs didn’t really react more strongly to one tone over another. Older dogs, the researchers found, were more
responsive to a familiar voice. Another study adds to this. The researchers videoed 44 adult pet dogs
and 19 puppies listening to a voice recording of a set phrase enounced in either Adult Directed
Speech, Pet Directed Speech, or Infant Directed Speech. They were looking for gaze as a measure of
the dogs’ attention and reaction to the voice recordings. In this study, the adult dogs showed more
responsiveness than puppies to Pet than Adult Directed Speech. So we’ve got conflicting studies… what’s
actually going on here? Well, it’s difficult to really know without
further research. But there might be more to it than just speech
patterns. Dogs specifically are more in tune to human
body language than most animals — about the level of an infant — which might be
why humans started domesticating them in the first place. And many owners feel their bond with a pet
is as strong as that with any human companion. So perhaps it all comes down to the bond we
have with our own pets. While puppies are excited by anything and
everything new, the older dogs responsiveness to a familiar voice does suggest that it’s
an owner-related reaction more than anything. But hey, that won’t stop me from using weird
voices when I talk to Pete! So that’s dogs and language, but what about
humans and language? We looked into how bilingual brains perceive
time in this episode right here. What weird ways do you talk to your pets? Let us know in the comments, give this video
a like, and be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode of Seeker.

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