People usually talk to their dogs as if these were human babies, and new research suggests that the animals respond most readily to this directed speech when they are babies. The slower rhythm and higher tone used in talking to baby dogs help them better understand communicational intentions.
People use the infant-directed speech to help babies understand and learn language. However, we do it unconsciously when talking to dogs as well, regardless of their age. The research shows that, once the dog is a grown-up, it will understand baby-talk as well as normal language in the same manner.
Puppies Answer Better To Dog-Directed Speech
The study, published Jan. 11 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, was conducted by an international team of researchers led by Dr. Nicolas Mathevon of Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY), and the University of Lyon/Saint-Etienne.
"Pet-directed speech is strikingly similar to infant-directed speech, a peculiar speaking pattern with higher pitch and slower tempo known to engage infants' attention and promote language learning," noted the research.
The research proves that puppies react very well to dog-directed speech, while their older counterparts do not perceive the information differently based on a person's tone, and normal speech gets the message transmitted equally well.
It is still unknown, however, whether it is an inherent mechanism among puppies to understand dog-directed speech. Also, the research has not answered the question of lack of preference in adult dogs. As mature dogs do not seem to have a preference when it comes to the tone of their masters' language, their response is the same regardless of the way the message is transmitted.
As for humans, there is a cognitive mechanism behind our attempt to make ourselves be understood when talking to those who have smaller chances of fully understanding what we're saying. This type of human behavior doesn't just apply to dogs (and generally pets) and babies or infants, but to older people and foreigners as well.
"[...] older dogs did not react differentially to dog-directed speech compared with normal speech. The fact that speakers continue to use dog-directed with older dogs therefore suggests that this speech pattern may mainly be a spontaneous attempt to facilitate interactions with non-verbal listeners," the study explained.
Dogs Naturally Understand Human Language And Emotions
One of the potential reasons why mature dogs can react the same regardless of the tone of their master is that their brains are wired as to understand human emotions and react accordingly, as another study pointed out.
The scientific explanation provided by the research is that the part of the brain which controls voice and speech developed in an ancestor that is common to both humans and dogs. If paired with the current study, it proves that language and emotions go hand in hand for people and dogs at the same time.
"In this first comparative neuroimaging study of a nonprimate and a primate species, we made use of this special combination of shared environment and evolutionary distance," noted the team who conducted the research.