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“Dog-Speak” Increases Bond With Your Pup


As parents coo murmuring sounds and baby-talk to their child, scientists are pointing the finger to pet owners and telling them to do the same with their favorite furry friend at home. Bonding of this type serves as a key social bond to relationship building whether for humans or animals, according to scientists in a new study published in March from the University of York.

Known in western culture as “dog-speak,” the way pet owners speak to their canine family members can improve social bonds between pets and their owners, as well as hold a dog’s attention.

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Previous studies on speech interaction, or “dog-speak,” reveal that communicating in a high-pitch voice with exaggerated emotion — much like adults do with their babies — improves engagement with puppies, although no real differences were spotted with older adult canines. For example, a pet owner who addresses their dog like “Who’s a good boy?” in a high-pitched voice directed at a puppy gets both a wagging tail and your full attention as you head out the door on a walk together.

Study Finds “Dog-Speak” Fosters Bonding With Your Pup

New experiments by the University of York scientists show subtle similarities with the way humans talk to their dogs and how “infant-directed” speech improves a human baby bond with its parents. A high-pitched voice with exaggerated emotion is common to hear when humans interact with their dogs. The same benefits for a dog as a baby were demonstrated, whether it was an adult dog or a puppy.

Additionally, social bonding between humans and their pets was indeed influenced by the type of dog-directed speech communication. Lead researcher, Katie Slocombe, PhD, from University of York’s Department of Psychology, put humans in the same room as the dog to resemble a natural setting for the dogs to test whether dogs paid more or less attention to “dog speak” as well as if they were motivated to spend extra time with the adult who had spoken to them. Speech tests with adult dogs were conducted, where dogs could listen to someone using dog-directed speech, like “Let’s go for a walk,” or “Good dog,” or adult-directed speech as if an adult were carrying on a regular conversation with another adult but directed to the dog.

The dogs then chose which adult speaker they wanted to go to and interact with afterwards. They found that the adult dogs were more likely to interact with the speaker who used both dog-directed speech with dog-related words. Next, the researchers mixed dog-directed speech with non-dog related words to see if specifically the word content or high-pitched emotional tone of the speech was what attracted the dogs.

The study’s conclusion showed no preference by dogs for one speaker or another, predicting that adult dogs need to hear both a high-pitched emotional voice with dog-relevant words like “Good boy,” “Good girl,” or “Walk.” This research goes a long way toward improving your dog’s attention and strengthening social bonds with your special furry “baby.”


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