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What Does Your Dog Think of Baby Talk? We Have the Answer

Hint: It's just what you want to hear.

smiling Chihuahua dog
Photography by: Martin Barraud

We've all done it: You see a cute puppy and your first reaction is to start talking to it like it has the teeny-tiny brain of a newborn. Well, guess what? It turns out that this silly habit of ours actually works, according to science.


A report, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, claims that "puppies were highly reactive to dog-directed speech, and that the pitch was a key factor modulating their behavior." What does that mean exactly?


[PUPPY SCIENCE: The 4 Things Your Dog Wants You to Know]

After recording people speaking in front of pictures of puppies, adults, and old dogs, the scientists played back the recordings to dogs at animal shelters in New York City, France, and Italy. After analyzing the reactions of the adult dogs and the puppies, they concluded that puppies reacted "more quickly, looking more often at the loudspeaker and approaching it closer and for longer periods." Awww.


This investigation was the first of its kind on dog behavior. And while researchers found puppies to be highly reactive to "baby talk", older dogs were not found to "react differently to dog-directed speech [that is similar to baby language] compared with normal speech." But this doesn't mean our "wittle puppy wuppy" language is for naught. 


With its slower tempo, clearer articulation of vowels, and higher and more variable pitch, infant-directed speech has been proven to have positive effects on maintaining an infant's—and now, pup's—attention. Babies as young as seven weeks have even been found to prefer this kind of speech, showing signs of increased cerebral activity upon hearing it. 


Of course, this doesn't mean that your puppy will eventually respond to you, but if you want to get its attention, the baby talk we can't resist around tiny tots may be your best bet. (Also, it's just plain cute.) So, next time someone gives you a side eye for speaking baby language to your puppy, tell them you're communicating. But remember, just like you would do with slightly older children, you may need to pass on the baby talk as your pup gets older. We would hate for you to embarrass him in the dog park.


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