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Dog parents rejoice! According to a new study, using that high-pitched “dog voice” to speak with a dog actually improves the dog’s attention and may help develop social bonds between pets and pet-owners.
Researchers at York University in the UK set out to determine whether “dog-directed”, high-pitched speaking has any impact on facilitating understanding for dogs in a similar way it has been proven to for babies.
Lead author of the research project, Alex Benjamin, stated, “Obviously we know that dogs can’t learn to talk, so we wanted to know whether dog-speak also has a function for dogs, or whether it is simply something we tend to use with our pets in a culture where we think of dogs as part of the family, like fur-babies,”.
Previous research on human-dog interaction determined that the high-pitched communication did have a significant impact on puppies but made little to no difference with fully grown dogs.
In contrast to those findings, Benjamin and her team discovered it is a bit more complicated than that. The research team completed a series of speech tests with 69 adult dogs in which the dogs listened to one person who spoke in a high-pitch tone and used dog-directed speech (ie. “Good Dog”, “Who wants to go for a walk”, etc.) and another individual who spoke in a normal tone without any dog-directed speech. Researchers then observed the dogs attention levels and prompted them to choose which speaker they wanted to engage with.
The speakers then proceeded to mix non-dog-related terms with dog-directed speech and adult-directed speech with dog related words in order to determine whether the cause of the behavior was the tone of voice or the words themselves. Upon completion of the research project the team concluded that dogs were most likely to engage with the speaker who had used both the high-pitch tone and dog-related content. Thus, it is in fact pragmatic to utilize “dog speak” when meeting and interacting with new dogs — not to mention validates all the dog-parents out there who already do so.