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Did you ask your dog who’s a good boy today? Scientists say you should do it more often

Posted March 8, 2018

Answer honestly – when was the last time you asked your dog who‘s a good boy? People tend to speak to dogs as children – exaggerated emotions, high pitched voice, simple words and so on. Some studies showed that it might be helpful for puppies, but what about adult dogs? Is it actually useful in any way or is it just humans treating dogs as babies? Scientists from the University of York tackled this question.

Dogs focus on people who use dog-direct language – high pitched voice and specific words. Image credit: Ed Yourdon via Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

You may not know this, but there is actually a reason why people talk to their babies the way they do. This special “baby language” actually helps children developing speech and also forms a tighter bond between parents and their babies. It all makes sense, but somewhere along the history of human-dog interaction people started using the same manner of speaking with their dogs. This is a bit weird, admittedly, and somehow more prevalent in the Western world. That is why scientists decided to find out if it does anything good for the dogs.

There have been previous experiments on this subject. However, they were lacking, because they only focused on puppies and they only focused on the voice or speech itself – humans were not involved. Now, instead of playing human voices on the speakers, scientists put humans and dogs in the same closed room and made them interact with each other. This made the set-up much more realistic. Scientists quickly noticed that dogs liked people who were speaking the “baby language” – they spent more time with them and paid more attention.

It seems like dog’s attention span is greater when the person uses dog-directed speech containing phrases such as ‘you’re a good dog’, and ‘shall we go for a walk?’ and so on. Dogs generally listen to people more and want to interact physically when they hear such language. Scientists found that it is both high-pitched voice and contents of these words that dogs are interested in. Alex Benjamin, one of the leaders of the study, said: “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”.

Not only it is interesting to know this, but this is useful for pet owners and professional vets. In order to connect with a dog better one has to use “dog speech”, which dogs seem to enjoy so much. It soothes them and makes them want to interact with person more. So if you have a dog, just go and ask him who’s a good boy, do it now.


Source: University of York

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