Study Reveals Effects of Dog-speak on Adult Dogs

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A new study confirms that speaking to pets is important for building a strong bond between the humans and pets, as published on March 6, 2018.

A group of scientists from the University of York conducted a study that demonstrated that the way humans speak to their canine pets plays an important role in building a strong bond between pets and owners.

The team conducted an experiment in which human interacted with their adult dogs through speech, commonly called dog-speak. They found that this dog-speak improves attention of dogs, also helping humans improve the social bond with their pets. They found that when humans talk in a high-pitched voice with exaggerated emotion, similar to the way adults talk to babies, improved engagement with puppies, however, did not make much difference to adult dogs.

Dr Katie Slocombe, from the University of York’s Department of Psychology said: “A special speech register, known as infant-directed speech, is thought to aid language acquisition and improve the way a human baby bonds with an adult. This form of speech is known to share some similarities with the way in which humans talk to their pet dogs, known as dog-directed speech. This high-pitched rhythmic speech is common in human interactions with dogs in western cultures, but there isn’t a great deal known about whether it benefits a dog in the same way that it does a baby.”

The experiment involved humans and dogs in the same room, to help gauge whether dogs paid more attention to ‘dog speak’ and motivated to spend more time with the person speaking to them in that manner. Adult dogs underwent several speech tests, one included dog-directed speech with phrases such as “you’re a good dog”, and “shall we go for a walk?” while the other was adult-directed speech with no dog-related content, such as “I went to the cinema last night.”

During each test, the attention of the dog was measured, after which the dogs were given the liberty to choose which speaker they wanted to physically interact with. The team then mixed dog-directed speech with non-dog-related words and adult-directed speech with dog-related words, to gain better understanding about the actual factors influencing bonding with dogs. They intended to analyze whether it was the high-pitched emotional tone or words used that attracted the dogs.

The results showed that dogs wanted to spend more time with humans who used dog-directed speech with dog-related content, than those who used adult-directed speech with no dog-related content.

“When we mixed-up the two types of speech and content, the dogs showed no preference for one speaker over the other. This suggests that adult dogs need to hear dog-relevant words spoken in a high-pitched emotional voice in order to find it relevant.” Said the researchers.

The findings of this study would prove beneficial to dog owners as well as veterinary professionals and rescue workers, helping them establish better bonds with dogs.


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