Do you talk to your dog as if you’re talking to a young child or baby or do you talk to your dog as if you’re talking with a neighbor? I’ve always suspected that dogs pick up on tones, just like humans do. I’ve noticed that when I speak to my dogs in a loving voice, they want to curl up next to me on the couch, but when I speak to them in an angry tone, they want to slink away from me.
It turns out that tone does matter when talking to a dog. I came across an interesting study about how “dog-directed speech”, a high-pitched rhythmic speech pattern similar to how humans talk to babies, can improve their attention and help them bond with humans.
In the study published by Science Daily, the research team did a series of tests with adult dogs and humans where they delivered dog-directed speech with dog-related phrases (such as “You’re a good dog” and “Shall we go for a walk?”) and adult-directed speech with no dog-related content. The researchers observed the dogs’ attention following the phrases and who the dogs wanted to physically interact with. Then they tried dog-directed speech with no dog-related content, dog-directed speech with non-dog related words, and adult-directed speech with dog related words. The overall result was that dogs liked to hear dog-related content spoken in dog-directed speech, the high-pitched rhythmic pattern.
This information is especially good to know for those who are integrating puppies or new dogs into their home. It’s also a reminder for all dog owners that what you say to your dog – and how you say it – can make an impact in their behavior.