What your dog likes best is when you talk to him like this: it’s important how you talk to your pet
László Enikő, 2023. August 11 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary
Dogs are special. Every dog owner knows that. And most owners feel that their pet understands their every word and every move. Research over the past two decades shows that dogs can indeed understand human communication in a way that other species cannot. However, one study has confirmed that if you want to train your new dog, you need to talk to him in a certain way to maximise the chance that he will follow what you say.
There is already a lot of research evidence to show that the way we communicate with dogs is different from the way we communicate with other people. When we talk to dogs, we use what is known as ‘dog-directed speech‘. This means that we change the structure of our sentences, shortening and simplifying them. We also tend to speak with a higher pitch. We also do this when we are not sure we are being understood, or when talking to babies.
Puppies prefer a higher pitch
One study has shown that using an even higher pitch when talking to puppies really does help the animals to pay more attention. According to research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, talking to puppies with “dog-directed speech” makes them more responsive and attentive to humans than normal speech.
To test this, researchers use so-called “play back” experiments. They recorded people saying “Hi! Hi cute! Who’s a good boy? Come here! Good boy! Yes! Come here, sweetie. What a good boy!” were said. On each occasion the presenter was asked to look at pictures of puppies, adult dogs, old dogs, and there were times when no pictures were given. Analysis of the recordings showed that the volunteers changed the way they talked to the dogs of different ages.
The researchers then played back the recordings to several puppies and adult dogs and recorded the animals’ behaviour in response. They found that the puppies responded more strongly to the recordings while the talkers were looking at pictures of the dogs (speech directed at the dog).
Are adult dogs less interested in vocalization?
Research has not found the same effect in adult dogs. However, other studies that have recorded dogs’ responses to human voices during live interactions have suggested that “dog-directed speech” can be useful in communicating with dogs of all ages.
How to talk to your dog?
Overall, dogs listen better if you use a higher tone of voice when you talk to them. However, when training, use command words in a well-articulated, medium volume. Shouting frightens dogs as much as children, so avoid it. Always try to speak calmly but firmly when commanding your pet to do something. Also, it’s important to know that shorter words are easier for dogs to remember, so just like their names, the commands you give should be short and concise.