How Do Canines Actually Respond to Human 'Dog Speak' Language?

PetMD Editorial
Published: January 11, 2017
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Admit it: you sometimes talk to your dog in a sillier and higher-pitched voice probably more acceptable for a baby than a canine. (It's okay, we all do it.)

But does your dog respond differently when you greet them with a "Doggy woggy I looooooove you!" than if you're greeting is delivered in a normal cadence? A study that was conducted by researchers (Nicolas Mathevon, Tobey Ben-Aderet, Mario Gallego-Abenza, David Reby) and published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B shared their surprising findings. 

The study—titled "Dog-Directed Speech: Why Do We Use It and Do Dogs Pay Attention To It?"—analyzed and recorded the speech patterns of participants and how they spoke to photos of puppies and then to photos of adult dogs. 

"We found that human speakers used dog-directed speech with dogs of all ages and that the acoustic structure of dog-directed speech was mostly independent of dog age, except for sound pitch which was relatively higher when communicating with puppies." 

From there, the researchers played the audio of the participants for puppies and adult dogs and found that puppies "were highly reactive to dog-directed speech" and that it influences their behavior. But the results were different in older, adult dogs. According to the study, the older dogs, "did not react differentially to dog-directed speech compared with normal speech."

So while your sweetie-weetie puppy-wuppy talk has a function for younger dogs, it appears to have no impact on older dogs. 

Still, something to consider that the study does not mention: a "kinder" way of speaking to a dog does have a positive impact when it comes to training dogs to be support animals.

"Companion animals are highly sensitive to the emotionality of sound. So if you want to encourage the animal, you make your voice inviting to make it obvious that this is going to be a fun interaction and it will pay off," Elisabeth Weiss of New York City's DogRelations explains to petMD. "Harshness isn't welcoming and therefore will not aid you at all in getting the dog to try something different and new." 

Image via Shutterstock