A recent study about the most effective tone to use when speaking to your new puppy found (perhaps unsurprisingly) that the pups were most responsive to something that the researchers called Dog Directed Speech. Or as we like to call it, Puppy Talk!
During the study, participants dictated several phrases people commonly say to their dogs in two different styles. When they used Dog Directed Speech, which is a slower tempo, high pitch tone, participants were more likely to capture and hold the attention of the puppies in the study than when speaking more in Human Directed Speech, which has a more rhythmic tempo and consistent pitch.
What does this mean for training? When you’re working with your new puppy on training tasks, from name recognition to basic obedience to coming when called, try some Puppy Talk! Here’s how you can incorporate it into your training routine:
The name game
When thinking of a nickname for your new pup, try something that is two syllables long and ends in a long vowel sound. For example my dog’s name, Porterhouse, can be abbreviated to Porty.
When calling the name, do so in a sing-song tone that lengthens and rises at the end: Port-eeee! These names have a tendency to capture the attention of the puppy more than a name that is blunt and ends with a hard consonant sound, like Port.
Head of the class
Using Puppy Talk will help you stand out from the crowd in an obedience class. While other owners are barking commands to their puppies in order to garner focus, try speaking in an excited and upbeat tone to your little guy. This excitement may help your puppy to focus more on you (because you are so darn fun!) and less on the other puppies in the room.
One of the most important things that you’ll ever teach your puppy is to come when called. This is a lifesaving cue that you should begin practicing the very first week you bring your pup home.
How do you teach your puppy to leave something exciting in order to come to you? You’ve got to be more exciting than the activity that your puppy was engaged with in the first place. Break out the Puppy Talk! Using a high-pitched tone, combined with play and praise, can help you achieve a super recall—even when your pup is very young.
So, what about older dogs?
In the study, 11 of the 20 adult dogs that were tested responded more favorably to Dog Directed Speech than Human Directed Speech (whereas 9 of 10 puppies responded favorably).
This leads us to believe that puppies are more sensitive to tone than older dogs, but whether your dog is a junior or a senior, Puppy Talk is still worth a try. At best, it can capture your dog’s attention in a positive way, at worst, you’ll be talking happily to your dog. . . and there’s nothing wrong with that!