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Tag: babies

Your attention, please …

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Look at you! Look at you! You are the cutest little reader I’ve ever seen. Yes you are. Yes you are! You’re just the sweetest reader ever. What a good reader! And, yes, you’re a genius, too. So very smart. Just a good good good pretty genius reader. Yes. Yes!

Talk to a baby like that (and most people do) and you’re going to get a reaction, studies show. You’re going to hold their attention, stimulate their brain, and (put most unscientifically) make them feel warm and bubbly inside.

Talk to a dog like that — especially if it’s a puppy and you have a higher-pitched, female type voice — and you’re going to achieve the same, a new study suggests. They’ll be more responsive and more likely to retain what (though it’s mostly gibberish) you’re saying.

Talk to your website readers like that, and they’re likely to think you’ve gone off the deep end, that you’re either stalking or patronizing them, and report you to the Internet police.

But you wouldn’t do that. Would you, pretty reader? Noooo. ‘Cuz you’re a good reader. Yes! You’re such a sweetie pie. Yes! Yes!

SONY DSCDogs, at least younger ones, find being talked to in a slow, sing-song, high-pitched, “baby-talk” type voice exciting, and react better to it, a new study says.

The findings show that the voice pitch and patterns of humans may help dogs learn words, as is believed to be the case with human babies.

To find out how dogs reacted to human speech, Nicolas Mathevon, a bioacoustician at the University of Lyon in Saint Étienne, France, recorded the voices of 30 women.

The women were asked to read the scripted phrases as they would to dogs, and as they would to humans. For the dog-directed readings, researchers provided them with photos of dogs to help them get in the mood.

Each woman read the following words: “Hi! Hello cutie! Who’s a good boy? Come here! Good boy! Yes! Come here sweetie pie! What a good boy!”

The women read the words as they would to a puppy, as they would to an older dog, and as they would to a human.

The recordings were then played to dogs — 10 puppies and 10 adult dogs at a New York City animal shelter.

Nine of the 10 puppies reacted strongly to the pupy-directed recordings, barking and running toward the loudspeaker and even going into a play stance.

The pups were less interested when the women were using the lower pitched, less playful voices they would use while talking to other humans.

The older dogs, possibly having heard their fill of baby talk, didn’t react at all — likely because they’d become more attuned to their master’s voice and less to those of strangers.

The study’s findings were presented this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Why we talk to babies this ultra-animated, affirmation-filled way — both our own and those we’re just meeting — is instinctual. Why we talk to dogs, especially puppies, like this, is a result of their big-eyed, baby-like appearance that brings out similar instincts in us.

SONY DSCIn either case, it’s all related to our instinct for nurturing, and our desire to communicate with a non-verbal, or not-yet-verbal, being.

In the study, the women’s exaggerated, high-pitched speech served far better to get the attention of the dogs, said Mathevon, who believes this way of talking may help dogs learn words.

I couldn’t find an explanation of why only women’s voices — 30 of them aged 18 to 55 — were used in the study, but I’d guess it’s because women are generally better at, and less embarrassed, at using baby talk in public.

Most of my dogs have favored women. Ace always preferred females, and my dog new dog, Jinjja, is much more comfortable around them too. If he hears a female voice in the distance he pulls toward it, if he hears a male one, he stops or retreats.

A lot of it I think is simply a matter of pitch. A higher pitch is less threatening.

Likely, with Jinjja, it also has to do with how he was raised. Probably, men ran the Korean dog farm he was rescued from, and during and after that rescue it was probably mostly women who were kind to him.

The same is probably true of many a shelter or rescue dog. Given women make up the bulk of the staff and volunteers at animal rescue and shelter operations, those dogs often tend to associate a female voice with food, warmth and safety.

Possibly, dogs have figured out females are the kinder and more nurturing gender (though that might be a little sexist to say). Or it could be women’s voices, in general, sound more like squeaky toys (though that might be a little sexist to say).

But you’re not going to hold that against me. Nooooooo. You’re too nice to do that, aren’t you? Aren’t you? You’re such a good reader. Yes, you are.

(Photos by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

Getting to know you

Dog and baby videos are a dime a dozen.

But there’s something about this one — perhaps it’s a reminder of the innocence and curiosity we (dogs and humans) are born with, and which we (mainly humans) tend to let slip away.

So, at no cost to us (we ripped it off of Facebook), here’s a look at a dog and a baby — still pure and untainted — getting to know each other.

Dogs and parenthood do mix — quite nicely

You hear a lot these days about young couples foregoing parenthood and opting for a dog instead. You hear a lot, too, about young couples who take in a dog as practice for when a real baby comes along.

There’s  nothing wrong, in my view, with either.

What often gets ignored though — amid the kind of scoffing the dogless sometimes do at dog peoples’ commitment to their animals — is the fact that dogs, while not the equivalent of a child, do indeed prepare young couples for parenthood.

And that’s just the beginning.

After that, they go on to help those children grow up with a healthy respect for living things, teaching them about love and loyalty. And, after the kids depart, dogs help fill the void —  though usually not the same dog — of an empty nest.

They, like some brands of dog food, in fact, are there for all the cycles of our human lives — including the the onset of parenthood.

Rebecca Dube does beautiful job of describing how her dog helped prepare her for parenthood in this week’s Toronto’s Globe and Mail — in a piece whose writing was prompted, sadly, by death of the family’s beagle, Lily:

“My dog was my baby; and now that I have an actual baby, I see that my dog prepared me for motherhood far better than any of those What to Expect books.”

Rebecca and her husband adopted Lily from a rescue group, altering their lives in  numerous ways — from cleaning up shed hair to shifting their schedules, to dictating where to vacation and where to live — and once Lily got sick, affecting the budget as well.

Lily lived much longer with cancer than the three months her vet originally predicted, long enough to meet the newest addition to the family.

Rebecca writes that, once she became ill, they never questioned the time and money they were investing in her: “She was our baby … And then along came a real baby.

“Our son, Elijah, arrived 10 days early, and we brought him home on a Saturday night. All through my pregnancy, I’d hoped for the moment we finally got, when we introduced Elijah to Lily, and stroked his tiny baby hand against her soft fur. In my greedy heart I wanted them to have years together, for him to laugh at her wagging tail, for her to wait patiently for scraps beneath his high chair. But that tiny bit of grace would have to be enough. Lily died early Monday morning…

“My dog was my baby. She taught me that a slobbery, stinky creature could pee on my shoes, poop everywhere, complicate my life in a million aggravating ways – and at the same time inspire so much love that my heart felt like it would burst with happiness. She taught me and my husband how to go from two to three. She taught us how to be a family…

Rebecca writes that, when Elijah gets old enough to understand, she’ll show him the photos of him and Lily, “and tell him that for a few days he had the best dog a boy could ever want.”

(Photo: Elijah and Lily, Toronto Globe and Mail)

Bark 1: Babies know when a bark is angry

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New research shows babies have a handle on the meaning of different dog barks – despite little or no previous exposure to dogs.

Infants just 6 months old can match the sounds of an angry snarl and a friendly bark to photos of dogs displaying threatening and welcoming body language, according to researchers at Brigham Young University.

“Emotion is one of the first things babies pick up on in their social world,” said BYU psychology professor Ross Flom, lead author of the study. Flom and two BYU students report their findings in the journal Developmental Psychology.

The new findings come on the heels of a study from the same  lab showing that infants can detect mood swings in Beethoven’s music.

“We chose dogs because they are highly communicative creatures both in their posture and the nature of their bark,” Flom said.

In the experiment, the babies first saw two different pictures of the same dog, one in an aggressive posture and the other in a friendly stance. Then the researchers played – in random order – sound clips of a friendly and an aggressive dog bark.