I’ve been known to talk and sing to my Lab, Teddy, as if he were a 5-year-old child and not a 5-year-old dog. My pitch is higher than normal and my word choice is simplified and specific.
Be honest. Many of you do, too, or at know someone who does. And if you’re been teased about your sing-song voice, take heart. You have science on your side.
It’s called pet-directed speech (PDS) and it involves talking in a slow, high-pitched voice, repeating words and sounding more positive and happier than when people talk to adults. People talk to babies in a similar fashion, Leah Rosenbaum writes for seeker.com.
Researchers at the Université Paris Nanterre found dogs pay more attention to people who speak to them in PDS than a normal “adult” voice. They think this type of speaking increases neural processing, or how a brain perceives stimuli.
According to Inverse.com, similar research was done at the University of York. Researchers studied how dogs responded to dog-related speech or a high-pitched voice with dog-relevant phrases. The results showed dogs spend more time with people who speak to them in “dog-speak” using “dog-relevant” words.
When I come home and greet Teddy in a high-pitched, rhythmic voice, “Hey Teddy! Were you a good boy? Do you get cheese?” the black Lab’s rump wiggles and his tail shakes. Teddy follows me to the refrigerator for a few cheese cubes, his reward for being a good boy. The pooch knows what the words “good boy” and “cheese” mean.
If I want Teddy to snuggle with me I sing a simple made-up song, “I love my Teddy. Oh, yes I do. I love my Teddy. He loves me, too. ” He comes running and jumps up for a snuggle and a belly rub. I’ve sung it enough that I can even get him to pay more attention to me than his pack leader, my husband, Ed.
Linda Wasnak, of Perry, Ohio, has been singing to Anakin, her and her husband Steven’s 27-month-old red Golden Retriever, since they brought him home.
Anakin loves to hear her sing just before “nippy nap” time around 2 p.m. and at bedtime, usually around 10. According to Linda, the pooch will stare into her eyes as she sings and pets him, and by the end of the song his eyes are closed.
She first started singing to the couple’s first Golden Retriever, Javier, and their first black cat, Jagermeister. Both loved the individual attention.
Linda’s song choice is perfect for getting Anakin ready to sleep. It’s John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy,” a song he wrote for his son, Sean. She has changed three of the words in the song to adapt to her “son” – with apologies to John Lennon, of course.
Substituting Anakin’s name for Sean and “Mommy” for “Daddy” were both easy fixes. The word “monster” was a little more problematic. Anakin’s life was monster-free.
The clever dog mom changed Lennon’s “The monster’s gone, he’s on the run and your Daddy’s here” to “The mailman’s gone, he’s on the run and your Mommy’s here.”
I think it’s time for me to up my song repertoire.
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Karin Spicer, a magazine writer, has been entertaining families for more than 20 years. She lives in Bellbrook with her family and two furry animals all who provide inspiration for her work. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.