"Who's a good boy?," we call out to our dogs with the same, weird tone every time. No one can deny it, owners usually talk to pooches slowly with a high-pitched voice. But why so? It's like an instinct. Experts studied this dog-directed speech and deciphered why we do such foolish deeds.
Researchers learned that humans talk this way to dogs as our natural way to interact with non-speaking listeners. Just like what we do with infants, experts said, talking in such manner is us attempting to connect.
"We found that puppies are highly reactive to dog-directed speech, in the absence of any other cues, like visual cues," Prof Nicolas Mathevon of the University of Lyon/Saint-Etienne in France, told BBC News
"Conversely we found that with adult dogs, they do not react differentially between dog-directed speech and normal speech."
For the study, researchers recorded voices of humans as if they were talking to their dogs. The owners were asked to express the phrase, "Hi! Hello cutie! Who's a good boy? Come here! Good boy! Yes! Come here sweetie pie! What a Good boy!"
Experts played the recorded voice using a loudspeaker in front of dogs with varying ages. They also played back a recorded audio track with the same script, but recited in a normal speech.
Researchers learned that puppies reacted excitedly to the recorded voice with a high-pitched tone, but didn't have the same reaction to the recorded track with normal speech. While, adult dogs didn't care about the both tracks.
"Dogs have been selected by humans for centuries to interact with us," Prof Mathevon added. "Maybe we have selected puppies that want to play or engage in interaction with us."
"And maybe older dogs do not react that way because they are just more choosy and they want only to react with a familiar person."
On the other hand, the experts' theory about why we talk that way to puppies, is because we are influenced by their "baby-like" face. Also, our manner of speech may be our natural reaction to interact with a non-speaker to promote language learning.