Do Dogs Like Being Talked To In A Baby Voice?


Millions of pet owners worldwide engage in “baby talk” with their dogs – speaking in a high-pitched, singsong voice reserved for infants. This cutesy way of communicating creates strong emotional bonds between humans and canines. But do dogs actually like being talked to in a baby voice? Let’s explore the science behind how dogs perceive human vocal tones, and whether baby talk benefits the dog-human relationship.

What is a Baby Voice?

A baby voice, sometimes called motherese, is a speech register characterized by a higher pitch, exaggerated vocal inflections, and simpler vocabulary compared to normal adult speech (Merriam-Webster). It often incorporates nonsense words like “goo-goo” and “ga-ga.” Baby talk frequently utilizes repetition, shorter sentences, and higher, more sing-song like vocal inflections. The exaggerated pitch contours keep an infant’s attention, while the simplification makes speech easier for babies to understand. Baby talk aids language acquisition and creates an emotional connection between parent and child (

Dogs’ Hearing Abilities

Dogs can hear a wider range of frequencies compared to humans. According to LSU, dogs are capable of hearing frequencies from 40 Hz to 60,000 Hz, while the human hearing range is typically 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz ( This means dogs can detect both higher and lower pitch sounds that humans are unable to hear.

In particular, dogs are more sensitive to higher frequency sounds. As noted by the AKC, dogs have a maximum sensitivity around 8,000 Hz, allowing them to better hear the high-pitched sounds of their prey ( Compared to the human peak sensitivity of around 2,000-4,000 Hz, this allows dogs to pick up on certain sounds that humans would miss.

Overall, the wider range and heightened sensitivity equips dogs to hear crucial sounds for survival and communication that fall outside normal human hearing.

Dogs Use Vocal Cues

Dogs have very keen hearing and are able to detect subtle differences in tone that humans can’t. According to research from the University of Sussex, dogs can tell the difference between happy and angry human vocal tones and respond accordingly. Their Masters’ Voices: Dogs Understand Tone And …

Dogs rely on vocal cues from their owners to understand commands, praise, and discipline. According to the ASPCA, dogs respond more to tone than the actual words spoken. When owners use a cheerful, upbeat tone, dogs perceive this as praise. Conversely, a stern, scolding tone communicates discipline to the dog.

Excitement and Positive Reinforcement

Research has shown that many dogs respond positively when talked to in a high-pitched, musical tone known as “dog-directed speech” or “baby talk.” According to a 2018 study published in Animal Cognition (, dogs exhibit more engagement and excitement when their owners use baby talk. The researchers found that dogs were more likely to play with a stranger who spoke to them in a high-pitched, happy tone with simpler words and short phrases.

This is likely because dogs interpret the baby talk as praise and positive reinforcement. The excited tone signals approval and happiness to the dog. As pack animals, dogs are wired to seek approval from their owners through vocal cues. So when owners use baby talk, dogs may see it as validation and reward for good behavior. This creates a feedback loop, encouraging the dog to keep eliciting the happy baby talk from their owner.

Creates Stronger Bond

Research has found that using “dog-speak”, also known as speaking to dogs in a high-pitched, exaggerated tone, helps create a stronger bond between dogs and their owners. Dogs are highly receptive to vocal cues and engage more when owners use this type of baby talk with them.

A 2018 study from the University of York found that adult dogs were more likely to interact and spend more time with people who spoke to them in a high-pitched voice with exaggerated emotion, similar to how adults speak to babies (1). This type of speech engages a dog more, helping strengthen the dog-owner bond.

Another study suggested baby talk supports the human-dog bond by gaining a dog’s attention and showing affection, just as baby talk between babies and adults builds their relationship (2). When owners use dog-directed speech, it can make dogs feel positively reinforced.

Therefore, employing this type of enthusiastic, affectionate speech creates more attentive and interactive dogs. It helps facilitate a closer relationship and bond between dogs and their human caretakers.


Potential Drawbacks

While talking to dogs in a high-pitched, affectionate tone can strengthen the human-animal bond, some drawbacks exist as well. Using baby talk too often can encourage attention-seeking behavior in dogs, as they learn to associate the baby voice with praise and excitement. This may lead them to demand constant attention or become clingy and overexcited when hearing the baby voice. Additionally, disciplining dogs in a normal, serious tone becomes more difficult if a baby voice is used most of the time. The change in tone will not be as clear to the dog, and they may not respond properly. Dogs need to understand both praise and discipline, so relying too heavily on baby talk makes it harder to correct unwanted behaviors.1

Appropriate Uses

Baby talk can be an appropriate way to interact with dogs in certain contexts. Using a higher-pitched, singsong voice is often most suitable when playing with dogs or rewarding them for good behavior. The exaggerated vocal cues and enthusiasm inherent in baby talk help excite dogs during playtime. Dogs may perceive the elevated tone as an invitation to engage in a fun, playful interaction.

Additionally, baby talk tends to work best with young puppies and smaller dog breeds. Puppies have an innate preference for high-pitched sounds similar to human baby talk and infant-directed speech. Smaller breeds also seem more receptive to the exaggerated vocal patterns. The sensitivity to those high, lively tones may originate from the genetic history of toy breeds evolving to bond with humans for companionship.

In summary, baby talk can positively stimulate dogs, especially puppies and small breeds, when the goal involves having fun, deepening social bonds, or giving positive reinforcement. Pet owners should be thoughtful about confining high-pitched baby talk mainly to those energizing, reward-based contexts.


In summary, the use of “baby talk” with dogs has both benefits and drawbacks. On the positive side, dogs respond well to the high-pitched vocal tones, and this type of talk can strengthen the emotional bond between owner and pet when used appropriately. The excitement in baby talk also serves as positive reinforcement. However, overdoing baby talk can be counterproductive by overstimulating the dog or undermining training commands. While most dogs enjoy some baby talk, moderation is key.

The evidence shows that the majority of dogs do have a favorable response to human baby talk, likely because of its similarity to puppy noises. However, owners should be mindful of overusing baby talk, particularly when giving commands. Though it has its appropriate applications, baby talk with dogs is best used in moderation.

Do Dogs Like Baby Talk?

Does your furry friend get excited when you use a high-pitched, sing-song voice to talk to them? Known as “dog-directed speech” or “baby talk”, this method of communicating with our canine companions is quite common. But does talking to dogs in a cutesy, infantile way really make them happy?


Mitchell, R.W. (2001). Americans’ Talk to Dogs: Similarities and Differences With Talk to Infants. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 34(2), 183-210. doi:10.1207/S15327973RLSI34-2_2

Ben-Aderet, T., Gallego-Abenza, M., Reby, D., & Mathevon, N. (2017). Dog-directed speech: why do we use it and do dogs pay attention to it? Animal Cognition, 20(4), 643–650. doi:10.1007/s10071-017-1082-4

Jeannin, S., Gilbert, C., & Leboucher, G. (2017). The style of dog-directed speech depends on the speaker’s relationship with the dog. PloS one, 12(8), e0183530. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0183530

Xu, M., Song, Q., Liu, M., Wang, X., Lyu, C., & Li, L. (2020). Dogs’ Reactions to Human Infant-Directed Speech and Adult-Directed Speech: An Eye Tracking Study. Animals : an open access journal from MDPI, 10(5), 779. doi:10.3390/ani10050779

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