An interesting article in The Atlantic takes a lighthearted look at a common pet owner behavior—why we enjoy talking as our dogs, cats, and other pets!

Many people admit to talking as if they were their pets (we also give voices to human babies).  Why exactly do we do this?

Linguist Deborah Tannen wrote about this habit back in 2004 and called it “talking the dog.”  The official term for this is called ventriloquizing, and Tannen found several reasons that might explain why we do it:  “effecting a frame shift to a humorous key, buffering criticism, delivering praise, teaching values, resolving potential conflict, and creating a family identity that includes the dogs as family members.”

Tannen told the author of the article that sometimes people find it easier to communicate with each other–such as sharing a complaint or critique–by doing it indirectly, through the family pet.  It’s also a way for us to soften self-criticism and guilt (“Why are you going out? I’m going to miss you!”).

Tannen notes that talking like your pet is largely a positive behavior, giving your fur kid a voice and a more active role in the family.  Many people use specific voices for individual pets as a way of reaffirming each animal’s unique personality.

Experts on human-animal interaction say that talking the dog is such a common behavior that many of us do it without even thinking.  Sometimes talking to your pet morphs into talking as your pet before you know it!

Do you “talk the dog” with your pets?


14 thoughts on ““Talking the Dog” – Why People Pretend to Talk Like their Pets

  1. It’s actually quite wonderful to talk to a beloved parrot. They are extra special communicators. Yes, they love to pick up the language of their “people”, but it’s equally wonderful to learn their language, too. They recognize the effort well. Their eyes will pin. They understand. Really, I’d love to be a bird. Not just to fly as they fly, but to sing as they sing. And love and humor? It’s also there from them to you, and you to them.

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