Be fluent in “dog speech”: Animal behaviorists share science-proven ways to talk to your dog
06/08/2018 // Edsel Cook // Views

Dog owners have long believed that their dogs can perfectly understand them. Animal behaviorists have backed them up on this belief, to the point that a new study suggests we should adopt "dog-directed speech" to make sure our dogs understand us, according to an article on The Conversation.

Researchers have taken note of the fact that we change the way we normally talk when we're speaking to dogs. We use shorter and simpler sentences, while also raising the pitch of our voices. If we're talking to puppies, we talk in an even higher pitch.

This manner of speaking is called dog-directed speech. We do much the same thing when talking to babies or to people who we think do not understand us. (Related: GRRRRR: Study reveals that dogs can talk to humans.)

Now, a new study reports that talking in a very high-pitched voice is the best way to get the attention of puppies. According to its findings, young dogs react quicker and pay more attention to humans who use dog-directed speech compared to those who use normal speech.

People talk differently to dogs, who pay more attention to dog-directed speech

For their study, the researchers either showed photos of dogs or no photos to human volunteers. The dog photos were of puppies, adults, or old dogs.

While looking at the photos (or at nothing), the volunteers were asked to recite a number of phrases that would often be said to dogs. Their speech was recorded for analysis and use in the next phase.

Based on the recordings, the volunteers used dog-directed speech if they were looking at dog photos. They also raised the pitch of their voice for younger animals.


In the next phase of the experiment, the earlier recordings were played for puppies and adult dogs. Researchers took note of how the animals responded to each recording. They reported that the puppies paid more attention to the recordings of speakers who were looking at dog pictures and thus using dog-directed speech.

In the paper they published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the researchers remarked that the dog-directed speech recordings didn't seem to affect adult dogs. However, other studies that used live interactions between humans and dogs instead of recordings suggest otherwise.

Dogs are the only animal that can understand human gestures

We don't even need to talk with dogs in order to communicate with them. We can also do so through physical gestures, like pointing to an object, and they can get what we are implying.

Even as puppies, dogs can recognize human gestures and respond appropriately. A dog is able to realize that a human is trying to communicate with it when the latter is pointing or gesturing. This behavior is unique to dogs; neither chimpanzees nor wolves seem to pick up that humans are trying to communicate their intent through gestures.

This suggests that dogs took up these behaviors and skills in order to co-exist alongside humans. Thousands of years of living in our homes and working alongside us have enabled dogs to communicate on a similar level as human children.

However, dogs don't interpret our pointing fingers in the same way that children do. Some animal behaviorists have proposed that dogs consider human pointing as a command that tells them where to go. In contrast, children will think they are being told information about something that is being pointed out.

Now that you're aware of how to get your dog's attention, show your pet how much you value its ability to understand what you're saying or gesturing.

Find out more ways to take better care of your best friend at

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