When it comes to talking to dogs, British researchers have some tips.
Scientists at the University of York published a study in the journal Animal Cognition that has some important information for those looking to get closer with their beloved pooch. And the secret is in how you talk to dogs, they say.
You have to speak in what researchers coined “dog-speak” — a high-pitched and rhythmic tone — and talk about dog-related things like going on a walk, the study found. Researchers say you have to do both of those things at the same time to really grab a pup’s attention and make it more likely to interact with you.
Dr. Katie Slocombe, from the Department of Psychology at the University of York, said she wanted to figure out if there was any benefit to the playful way many owners communicate with their dogs.
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She compared it to “infant-directed speech,” or the way adults talk to babies.
“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,” she said, according to the University of York’s website. “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 study had two main experiments.
First, 37 dogs listened to one person talking in “dog-speak” while saying things like “you’re a good boy” and another person who spoke in a normal voice about other topics like going to the movies. Scientists monitored dogs for their attentiveness while both people spoke and then tracked which person the dogs tried to physically interact with once they were done talking.
Dogs paid more attention to those who talked in “dog-speak,” the study found, and chose to spend more time with that person as well.
Researchers then switched it up for the second experiment, with people talking to 32 pups in a regular voice about dog-related topics and others using “dog-speak” while chatting about things unrelated to dogs.
When that happened, University of York PhD student Alex Benjamin said “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,” he said. “We hope this research will be useful for pet owners interacting with their dogs, and also for veterinary professionals and rescue workers.”