I often chuckle when I am out walking my dogs in the wee hours of morning and I pass someone and realize I am mid-sentence talking to my dogs. I probably speak more words to them daily than anyone! Am I just a crazy dog lady? The science says no, in fact I might just be brilliant! When humans talk to non-human animals it is called anthropomorphism. According to Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago, anthropomorphism is “a natural byproduct of the tendency that makes humans uniquely smart on this planet.” Human beings are programmed to see and perceive minds which is why we anthropomorphize things without even realizing it. While that is a fun fact, it isn’t why we do it. We do it because we feel more connected to our pet.
Every book will tell you that when you are expecting a baby to begin talking to your baby, even before birth, and then continue talking to your infant. There have been many studies about the increased bonding between child and parent when this occurs. Well our pets like their parents to talk to them as well.
Dogs specifically have been studied and proven to respond to “dog speak”. This tends to be a higher pitch voice we use when we talk to our animals…like “baby talk” we use with human children. Scientists say they have not determined if puppies come to this world being responsive to this or if it is a learned behavior, but they know that dogs both young and old respond to this type of speech from humans.
Another thing that is proven is that dogs are responsive to repetitive words. Dogs learn using dog relevant words that they relate behavior or experiences to. My husband rolls his eyes when I spell out T R E A T, he contends it is not the word but rather the tone or “dog speak” voice that they are responding to. Well the studies say he might be right. Dogs do respond more frequently to dog relevant words, but adult dogs are even more likely to interact when the words are spoken in the high-pitched tone.
There are so many benefits to talking to your pets; both for them and for you. Here are the top reasons you should just keep gabbing.
1. We talked about the increased bond that develops between you and your pet when you talk to them. This is emotionally beneficial for both of you. It is proven how animals can help combat loneliness and depression in humans. It goes without saying you are the most important thing in the life of your pet, so the connection they get from you talking to them literally means the world to them.
2. We talked about how dogs learn from dog relevant words. Dogs want to please you, so if you can teach your pet the meaning of the words you speak to them, they are able to respond as they are supposed to when they hear a word or a phrase. Again, you are their whole world so the more often they can show off and please you the better.
3. Take your chatting to another level. If you can couple your words with specific movements of body language your pet is so smart, they will learn these communication ques as well. It is another way that you can communicate your intent or message to your pet without ever speaking a word. Just another strengthening tie to the bond between the two of you.
So next time you leave your house and you tell your pet, “Mom will be home soon”, remember you aren’t crazy.
Do you talk to your pet?