Washington: Puppies respond more readily than adult dogs when people talk to them just like they would with babies – more slowly and with a higher tone, a new study has found.
When talking to dogs, human adults use pet-directed speech similar to infant-directed speech which is known to engage infant attention and promote language learning.
Researchers led by Nicolas Mathevon of Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY) in the US showed that puppies are highly reactive to dog-directed speech but that older dogs do not react differently to dog-directed speech compared to normal speech.
Yet, human speakers employ dog-directed speech with dogs of all ages, suggesting that this register of speech is used to engage interaction with a non-speaking, rather than just a juvenile, listener.
Not only might people consciously or unconsciously wish to make themselves better understood through dog-directed speech, they may also be promoting word learning in dogs when doing so, researchers said.
It remains an open question whether puppies react innately to dog-directed speech and exactly why adult dogs showed a lack of preferential reactivity to dog-directed speech.
People seem to consider dogs non-verbal companions and speak to them as they would to human infants.
We use similar strategies in other situations where we believe our listener may not fully understand us, such as when speaking to elderly people or linguistic foreigners.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.