Do you use baby talk with your pets? For human babies, high-pitched voice helps them learn the language. But for dogs, do you think they will understand it?
Good news, science actually explains dogs will respond to some baby voice!
Recent studies show that speaking with infants with the high-pitched exaggerated way helps speak by making sounds clear. Baby talks also help strengthen the bond between parents and children. Aside from humans, apes also speak like that with their babies.
Animal Cognition’s recent research asked two people to record their own voices. The researchers recruited 37 dogs from York, England and brought them into a room with the two people. The dogs heard two types of the recorded voices: a normal, conversational tone and a “dog-directed speech” or the baby-talk.
“Dogs, we think, are very sensitive to changes in acoustic properties – things like the gender of the person, the size of the person – so that’s why the recording of the speech always matched the person that was holding the speaker,” Alex Benjamin, a Ph.D candidate at UK’s University of York and co-author of the study, told National Geographic in an interview.
After hearing the recording, the researchers measured how much time the dog spent looking at each of the persons.
“The dogs spent more time looking toward the person using dog-directed speech. And they chose on average to spend more time with the person who had recently been producing this sort of speech register,” Benjamin explained.
To make sure, the scientists did a second experiment. The dogs heard the recording again, but the baby talk was inconsistent. On one recording, the baby talk was paired with human stuff, totally irrelevant dog topics, while the other recording was more on the normal conservational tones that dogs prefer more.
“We found that adult dogs were more likely to want to interact and spend time with the speaker that used dog-directed speech with dog-related content than they did those that used adult-directed speech with no dog-related content,” Benjamin said.
“When we mixed-up the two types of speech and content, the dogs showed no preference for one speaker over the other. This suggests that adult dogs need to hear dog-relevant words spoken in a high-pitched emotional voice in order to find it relevant,” he added.