Why do we use baby-talk on our pets?

Author picture Jessica

Let’s all admit it – most of us pet fanatics on Pawshake have a special voice reserved for our pet. 

Maybe it’s super high-pitched, exaggerated, cartoonish or silly – and maybe we might feel embarrassed if the neighbours heard us – but there is an interesting reason why we use this goo-goo-gaa-gaa talk for our furry friend!

A study from the Proceedings of the Royal Society B has found that pet-directed talk is very similar to the voice we would use with a human baby – with those long, elongated vowels, high and low dips in pitch and really over-the-top facial expressions. 

The conclusion is that we use our ickle-wickle voice for pets because, like human babies, they can’t talk. So we instinctively use our drawn-out baby talk to communicate with them to help them understand us, even though they aren’t ever going to learn to speak back 

Using baby talk with an infant assists with language development.

So really, using baby talk on a pet is more about our relationship to them than it is about their relationship to us. We wuv them like our own babies!

Interestingly, the study found older dogs didn’t respond to pet-talk as much as puppies….however don’t despair if you have an older dog! As a purely audio-based study there may be other factors at play when you pet-talk to your pooch, such as body language, scent, familiarity etc. 

So don’t feel shame when using your best cutesy voice with your pet. Whether or not they get what you say, we suspect they feel the love – and you will too!