A group of scientists studying how dogs respond to human speech have discovered how best to apologise to your pet when you accidentally step on their toes or tail.
When it comes to taking care of a dog, most owners go above and beyond to make sure their pet is happy and healthy. But every now and then, we do something that upsets them – like accidentally stepping on their foot when we’re walking around the house.
Thankfully, scientists have discovered how to apologise to our pets in a way they can actually understand – rather than simply telling them we’re sorry. A study published in animal cognition shares how speaking in a baby voice – otherwise known as ‘dog-directed speech (DDS) – can ease your pet’s mind after tripping over their paws.
The research team studied 37 pet dogs from volunteers – with some being spoken to in a ‘normal voice’ while others were spoken to in a ‘baby voice’. Measuring the amount of time the dogs were attentive to each volunteer, it was discovered those spoken to in a ‘baby voice’ stayed attentive for longer.
Dog Directed Speech(DDS)
To test whether or not dog-directed speech had any effect on attention, the researchers borrowed 37 pet canines from volunteers and ran a series of tests.
Each dog was leashed and brought into a room with two humans and subjected to recordings of different words and phrases spoken in both a standard tone of voice and a more exaggerated dog-directed tone. The researchers measured the amount of time the dogs were attentive to each individual and then after the dogs were taken off their leashes, how long each dog spent near the human before wandering off.
What the team discovered is that dog-directed speech did indeed grab the dogs’ attention and hold it for longer than a level voice tone. However, the effect wasn’t uniform across puppies and adult dogs. Puppies tended to respond to the dog-directed speech regardless of what words were actually being said, while adult dogs were more likely to respond to DDS when the words being spoken were relevant to them (like “walk,” for example).
A researcher wrote: “Overall, the results of this study suggest that naturalistic DDS, comprising of both dog-directed [speech patterns] and dog-relevant content words, improves dogs’ attention and may strengthen the affiliative bond between humans and their pets.”
Alongside apologising to your pet in a soft voice, you should check their paw for any injuries and ice them for 10 minutes if you spot redness or swelling.
Another study, published in The Royal Society, claims dogs have the ability to understand human intentions based on their emotional response.
This means they understand it was an accident – and you wasn’t trying to hurt them intentionally.
“The perception of emotional expressions allows animals to evaluate the social intentions and motivations of each other,” the study reads.
“Dogs looked significantly longer at the face whose expression was congruent to the valence of vocalisation, for both con-specifics and hetero-specifics, an ability previously known only in humans.
“These results demonstrate that dogs can extract and integrate bimodal sensory emotional information, and discriminate between positive and negative emotions from both humans and dogs.”