If your shameful dog-owner secret is talking to your puppy in a high-pitched, cutesy baby voice when nobody else is around, well, it’s time to embrace the baby talk, because it’s doing your pup a world of good.
That’s according to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Using the term “dog-directed speech” instead of baby talk (because these are scientists), the researchers carried out a two-part experiment. Part one involved giving volunteers image of both puppies and adult dogs, and recording a piece of prewritten dialogue (“Hi! Hello cutie! Who’s a good boy? Come here! Good boy! Yes! Come here sweetie pie! What a good boy!”) spoken as though they were speaking directly to the dogs in the pictures. The participants also recorded the same lines in their normal voices, i.e., not directed at the dogs.
In the second part, the dogs were played the recording, and researchers documented how they reacted to the human voices. The first observation was that the participants changed the pitch of their voice if they were talking to dogs — speaking more slowly and at a higher pitch — and the difference between their “dog” voice and normal voice was more conspicuous when they were talking to puppies. And the response from the puppies suggested their baby talk efforts were not in vain. While the adult dogs were equally responsive to the high-pitched and normal recordings, the pups appeared to be more fascinated by the baby talk.
There’s a case for using baby talk with infants (research has shown that it helps them to learn more easily than when they are spoken to in a regular voice), so why shouldn’t the same go for baby animals? Sure, you might sound a little silly, but your pup will love you for it.