Science Says Puppies Prefer When You Speak To Them In This Tone

You know you do it!

I will never baby talk a child. It’s demeaning to the both of us, not to mention incredibly annoying. But all animals are a different story. I am HAPPY to demean myself (and the dog!) by launching into full-on “whosagoodbuddy” goo-goo gaga blather. And according to science, our doggies actually prefer it. So there.

According to a new study from the journal “Proceedings of the Royal Society B,” speaking in baby talk to puppies might help them retain information better. The experiment was conducted in two parts.

In the first, volunteers looked at images of puppies and adult dogs. They then recorded a few pre-written sentences, speaking as though they were directly interacting with the puppies. “Hi! Hello cutie! Who’s a good boy? Come here! Good boy! Yes! Come here sweetie pie! What a good boy!” was the phrase used. As a control, the volunteers also read the same lines in their normal tone of voice.

The second part of the study involved playing the recordings back to the dogs. Some of the dogs were borrowed from shelters and some of the dogs were pets that had been volunteered specifically for the study. The researchers then observed how the dogs reacted to the sounds of the human voice.

Photo by Lisa L Wiedmeier
Photo by Lisa L Wiedmeier
Photo by Lisa L Wiedmeier

The researchers then discovered two things. The first was that volunteers altered the pitch of their voice depending on how old the dog appeared to be in the photograph. According to acoustical analysis, people generally spoke more slowly and at a higher pitch when addressing a dog versus speaking in their normal tone of voice. The difference in pitch and rapidity of speech, however, was especially significant if the volunteer was talking to a puppy.

This is significant because older dogs were equally responsive to high-pitched and normal-pitched recordings, but younger dogs were more engaged when listening to recordings of what would be considered baby talk.

The researchers couldn’t come to a conclusion as to why puppies respond best to high-pitched speech. But, they wrote in their report it stands to reason that, like humans, baby talk “may be efficient to promote word learning, an ability well demonstrated in dogs.” The researchers argued that humans see babies and puppies as “nonverbal companions,” which is why we tend to speak in a way we think they can best understand.

Maybe one day they’ll find out “who’s a good boy.”