When you’re meeting a dog for the first time, it’s hard not to slip into that high-pitched, “goochy-goo” voice people use to talk to babies. A new study suggests puppies actually love that voice, but you might be wasting your breath with older dogs.
Photo by Jonathan Kriz.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, looked at how recordings of adults using different voices affected dog behaviour. “Pet-directed speech”, which involves speaking with a softer, higher pitch and slow tempo, had a large effect on puppies. They were highly reactive to the sounds when it came to changing their behaviour, which suggests baby talk has a functional value for your young pups. When training a newborn dog, it seems that talking to them like they’re babies is beneficial.
Older dogs, on the other hand, did not react to that type of voice any differently than normal speech. It seems, just like with people, they grow out of the “goo-goo-ga-ga talk”. So why do we still do it then? The researchers believe it has something to do with our wiring. We tend to use slow baby talk voices to facilitate interactions with most non-verbal listeners. It’s possibly a spontaneous, instinctual way to communicate with our “young” — even if they’re a little hairier. Also, dogs are so darn cute and it’s hard not to.