Why Talking to Your Dog Like a Baby Works!

Oh, such a good girl! Doggy wanna play? Oh, baby girl is such a cutie puppy-pie. Are you momma’s rising sunshine? Yes you are! 

We’ve all been there. Someone catches you baby-talking your dog, and you can’t help but feel awkward that you were speaking to your dog as you would an infant child. Do they think I’m crazy? Do they think I believe my pet is my baby?

These are some of the thoughts that may cross your mind. Non-pet owners may have many questions regarding us pet owners and our behavior towards our precious companions, but science has recently discovered that baby talk is more than a curious habit. 

As it seems, our “cutesie talk” is effective and is an important part of the evolution of our partnership with dogs. 

Exaggerated prosody: AKA Cutesie Talk

“Exaggerated prosody” is the term scientists use to refer to “baby talk,” that high-pitched and overly modulated style of speech that a person might use to speak to a baby or a pet. They also call this baby or dog-directed speech.

It’s second nature for pet owners to speak to their fluffy pooches in this manner. This makes complete sense when we think of why they are inclined to do this.  

Dog Brains React Better to Baby-Talk

Speech is a fundamental part of how we communicate with one another. Babies and dogs have something in common besides being cute: they have limited linguistic competence. In other words, they can’t fully understand complex patterns of speech. 

It must be said that the canine brain can understand human language and up to 1,000 words. But, they certainly cannot understand complex structures of language.

Baby or dog-directed speech has acoustic characteristics that call and maintain attention through a high and variable tone pitch, with short utterances. When you look into your dog’s eyes as you baby-talk to them and feel they understand, you are not mistaken. Dog brains are more responsive to this style of speech.

Increased Response to Baby-directed Speech

This was determined by Hungarian researchers from the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. They placed a group of trained, conscious family dogs inside a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (fMRI) scanner. The pooches were to listen to the recorded speech of 12 men and 12 women, with different speech styles directed to adults, children, and dogs. 

Their brain responses were scanned as the dogs listened to the spoken voices. The dogs showed a heightened response to baby-directed speech and a higher sensitivity to female voices. 

What does this tell us about evolution?

A baby’s preference for female voices can be explained by intra-uterine exposure and ancient responsiveness to intraspecies signals. Dogs do not share this type of exposure, and dog-to-dog communication does not have the same voice tones and patterns that characterize the human female voice. 

So, the fact that dog brains respond better to female voices is yet another fascinating piece of evidence of how dogs have evolved as a part of our family. The family dog as a loyal companion animal has a brain that responds highly to human baby-directed speech, and this information is extremely valuable as we learn how to further develop our relationship with them and hone our human-to-dog communication skills.


Using “exaggerated prosody,” or baby-talk, to our dogs is good for their brain. Speaking to our pets helps deepen our bonds with them, reassures them, and supports their brain development. 

Will dogs ever learn how to speak back? Who knows! But it’s unlikely. Yet, we can baby-talk freely to our loving fluffies and rest assured that they understand us.

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