It’s not hard to understand why so many people talk to their babies in high-pitched coos. Having a little one in the house (especially a newborn) can bring out the softie in anyone. But have you ever wondered why we also use baby talk with our dogs? And better yet — if our furbabies actually know what the heck we’re doing?
A group of researchers at the University of York’s Department of Psychology decided to find out. According to study authors, they first took a group of dogs and humans and put them in a room together. Next, they had someone talk to the dogs in a normal tone, about something non-dog-related (like, “I can’t find my keys”). Then, they had another person use baby talk (or, “dog-directed speech”) and say something dog-related (like, “You wanna go for a walk?”). After that, they measured which speaker the dogs wanted to interact with — and it was definitely the ones using dog-directed speech, with dog-related words.
But then came the next question: Do the dogs actually like the sound of baby talk? Or are they merely responding to the actual words themselves (and laughing at us as we talk to them in our sing-songy voices)?
Turns out, they like our ridiculous selves.
“When we mixed-up the two types of speech and content, the dogs showed no preference for one speaker over the other,” said Alex Benjamin, PhD student from the University’s Department of Psychology told Science Daily. “This suggests that adult dogs need to hear dog-relevant words spoken in a high-pitched emotional voice in order to find it relevant.”
So it’s official: Talk to your dog in a baby voice about something they want hear (AKA “dinnertime!”) and you’re golden.
Did we really need a study to tell us this? Probably not; but for those of us who are unapologetic baby talkers with our pups, it’s nice to have a little bit of science to back up our craziness. I’d call that a win.