How women adopt baby talk when speaking to their dog by varying the tone

They vary the tone, pitch and intensity of their voice when talking to dogs
How women adopt baby talk when speaking to their dog by varying the tone

Women use the pet equivalent of baby talk to make the most of their interactions with their dog, research shows.

Experts found women adopt what has been dubbed "pet-directed speech" when addressing their dog - varying the tone, pitch and intensity of their voice - just like they do with newborn babies.

By doing this, women ensure they are communicating quite purposefully and strategically with their pets.

Researchers recorded 34 women in a laboratory interacting with their dog in four conditions: before a brief separation, after reuniting, during play and while giving commands.

The results showed the women clearly varied how they spoke depending on the interaction with their dog.

The results showed that before separating from their dog women used a low pitch, few modulations, and high intensity variations.

By contrast, when they reunited with their pets they used few high pitch words, few imperatives and a high frequency of affectionate nicknames.

Whilst playing with their dogs women used a lot of questions and got the attention of their dogs, and when issuing a command women used lots of imperatives.

The study said that, like mothers speaking baby talk to newborns, mothers used verbal and non-verbal tricks.

The intended function of these vocal utterances was to "provide dogs with information about their intentions and emotions", the study said.

Lead researcher Sarah Jeannin of the University of Paris Nanterre said, "Our results show that female owners do adapt the way they communicate with their dog, in order to optimise the transmission of their intentions and emotional states, and in this way, facilitating their social interactions."

Sarah Jeannin added that they did not include men in the study as "previous studies have clearly pointed out gender differences with respect to the use of pet directed speech (PDS): male owners speak less frequently when interacting with their dogs and are less likely to use PDS than female owners".

The study was published in the journal Animal Cognition.


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