Do You Use Baby Talk with Your Dog?

Do you think your dog likes hearing baby talk from you? Do you enjoy having that special communication style? Are you as surprised as I am by French researchers telling us we’re wasting our time on doggy baby talk?!

I read a fun article on Gizmodo recently about a scientific study in France that showed puppies responded to “baby talk” but that grown dogs didn’t react to people using that different pattern of speech. Many people use “baby talk” (which is defined as “variations in pitch, slower and clearer speech patterns) with human babies, and some of us use it with our dogs, too! But should we change our ways?

Researchers in France wanted to measure whether what they refer to as “infant-directed speech” is more effective than normal human-directed speech in getting a dog’s attention and influencing his behavior.

Recordings of people using “dog directed” speech to say phrases like “Who’s a good boy?” “Good girl!” “Come, Sweetie!” were played over a loud speaker in a room without a person in it. Over 40 dogs of various ages and breeds were watched. Puppies reacted quickly to the dog-directed speech and ignored phrases spoken with normal speech patterns

The results, which have been accepted for publication in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, concluded that puppies respond positively to baby talk, while adult and older dogs showed no interest in it.

Really? My girls sure do! Especially when I’m alone with my pooches, Maisie and Wanda just love it when I “talk funny” to them — and react more enthusiastically than if I use an everyday tone of voice, which they’ve learned is rarely directed at them.

So what do you think: are those researchers wrong about how our dogs really feel about “doggy talk?”

—Tracie Hotchner

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photo credit: Roy Montgomery ‘Ja Say Sumpin? via photopin (license)