Who's a good boy?!
If you were making a list of the most adorable things in the world, chances are good that at the top of that list is going to be the word “PUPPIES” written in bubble letters with little stars and hearts around it.
Everything about baby animals is cute, and puppies and kittens are only some of the most wonderful balls of fluff there are. No one can possibly deny the wonder that is looking into a sleepy puppy’s face and getting a little kiss. So what could possibly be cuter than the idea of puppies?
Well, what if I told you that puppies absolutely adore when you speak to them in baby talk?
Yes, it’s true! In some of the cutest news you will ever hear in your entire life, it turns out that puppies actually really love it when humans speak to them like they’re infant humans.
If your voice has reached dog-whistle levels in pitch, and you’ve just been asking them the same question over and over again (it’s Who’s a good boy? ...It’s always that), then they’re secretly loving every second of it and those tail wags are for you.
How did they come to this conclusion? Whoever got to do this study has the best job in the world. Unfortunately, though, this news means that now, no one is ever going to speak to a dog in a normal voice again and we’ll all just have to learn to live with it.
If constant, grating baby talk is what the puppies want, then this is what we’ll give them. This is our reality now. Don’t question it or baby dogs will cry.
While infant children kind of run the market on things that most people speak “baby talk” to — since we have a natural inclination to speak in a higher-pitched voice and repeat what we’re saying a lot — it actually does help them. In fact, it can help them learn and absorb words more easily since we’re dumbing down our speech and incidentally letting them learn the patterns.
For puppies, it’s much the same.
The journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B recently published the study and found that while older dogs responded equally well to both higher-pitched and normal-pitched voices (because they actually just want you to be quiet), puppies were far likelier to respond to the people who baby-talked to them.
And while the study’s authors didn’t actually come to a conclusion as to why this might be the case, they were able to figure that speaking to a young dog in a high-pitched, repetitive manner “may be efficient to promote word learning, an ability well demonstrated in dogs.”
Basically, we’re inclined to speak to dogs this way because our brains put them in a “nonverbal companion” category, which means it’s a being that can maybe only sort of understand what we’re actually saying. As a result, puppies often get the baby talk treatment, and this is good because we’re doing to the puppies exactly what we’re doing to the babies — teaching them to recognize the words we’re saying.
So, as annoying as baby talk is to anyone who isn’t holding the puppy, it does actually serve a purpose, and both children and puppies alike are pretty dang fond of it.
Just remember next time you see a puppy and you immediately squeal with delight and start baby talking, he’s actually loving the entire experience. And if you see him enough and baby talk him to enough, one of the times that you ask him, “Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?” for the thousandth time, he might just respond with a lick and a little tail wag because, thanks to you, he figured out that he’s actually the good boy you’re talking about.