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Puppy talk: why do we use it and do dogs pay attention to it?

T. Ben-Aderet, M. Gallego-Abenza, D. Reby, N. Mathevon

ALTHOUGH dogs do not possess the ability to speak, humans do change their speech patterns when talking to dogs using what is known as pet-directed speech, which shares similar structural properties with infant-directed speech (eg, high-pitch register, slower tempo). Despite widespread interest in understanding the nature of the human-dog relationship, the effect of pet-directed speech on dogs remains unknown. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the age of the dog modulates the use and the properties of pet-directed speech and whether it engages dogs' attention better than speech directed to human adults.

Thirty women were recorded speaking in front of pictures of puppies, adult and old dogs, and the quality of their speech was analysed. Recordings were then played back to puppies and adult dogs to test whether puppy-directed speech is more effective than human directed speech in engaging a dog's attention and if this varies with a dog's age, and whether puppy-directed speech is more effective than adult dog-directed speech.

The study found that people used dog-directed speech with dogs of all ages and that the …

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