How We Talk to Animals: All About “Pet-Directed Speech”

Raise your hand if your voice changes when you talk to your pets! If you find yourself using a high-pitched singsong when talking to dogs, cats, birds, and other animals, you’re not alone. In fact, there’s even a term for it: pet-directed speech (PDS). It’s more common in women than men, and is closely related to another type of speech we’re all familiar with: infant-directed speech (IDS).

A recent study published in the journal Animal Cognition took a closer look at PDS…specifically, how women talk to dogs. The results are very interesting. The researchers observed 34 adult women talk to their dogs in 4 different situations:

  • Before separating
  • After reuniting
  • During play
  • While giving commands

When do we most use that high-pitched, singsongy form of PDS? According to the study, it’s when we reunite with our pets after a separation. Before separating, our voices are more low, even, and unaffected. During play, we use questions and attention-getting tactics. Giving commands, we use imperatives and attention-getting tactics.

A story about the study on the NPR website goes into the science behind how we talk to our pets, and how it compares to the way we talk to young children. With both groups, women in particular tend to adapt their communication style in order to optimize the transmission of both their intentions and their emotional state…in other words, to facilitate interaction.

The experts note that women are more likely than men to talk a lot to their pets and use PDS while speaking. In terms of your pets’ reactions…scientists say that puppies are much more responsive to PDS than adult dogs, who show less interest in this type of speech. Another interesting finding? Women who were not mothers spoke to their dogs in a higher pitch than women who had children. Makes sense if your pets are *really* your kids!


Women Vie for Shelter Dog’s Affection in Adorable “Dog Bachelor” Video


Here’s a great way to start your week with a smile! The good folks at the Santa Fe New Mexico Animal Shelter & Humane Society have created a fantastic video to help raise awareness about shelter pet adoption. Check out their “Bachelor” TV show parody featuring 2 love-struck women competing for the affection of one very handsome shelter dog named Stewart:


“Humane Puerto Rico” Initiative Gears Up to Save Animals


The Humane Society of the United States recently announced the creation of their new “Humane Puerto Rico” initiative. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the U.S. and according to HSUS, there are many dogs, cats, and other animals there that are in urgent need of help. Did you know that the euthanasia rate for shelter dogs and cats is 95%, and that many thousands of homeless pets roam the streets of this island?


What will the initiative do? There will be a multi-faceted effort to improve the lives of the animals of Puerto Rico in several areas, including:

  • Training law enforcement officers and prosecutors on animal cruelty crimes.
  • Donating law enforcement evidence-gathering kits.
  • Cracking down on puppy mills.
  • A humane education program that will reach every K-12 public school student.
  • New tools and technology for animal shelters on the island.
  • Partnering with Humane Society International on low-cost spay/neuter programs.


Puerto Rican government officials signed an agreement pledging their cooperation to help solve critical issues such as animal cruelty, the street dog population, and the euthanasia rate. HSUS notes that many tourists visiting Puerto Rico have been struck by the number of homeless animals in poor condition wandering the streets, and have contacted various organizations to see what can be done.

Interested in learning more about the HSUS Humane Puerto Rico initiative? Click HERE for the original story.  For an update on what’s been going on lately, including a contraception program for the free-roaming horses of Vieques, and the launch of the Sister Shelter Project, in which shelter professionals from several states will provide assistance to Puerto Rican shelters, click HERE.


Proposed Legislation Gives Hope to CA Pet Owners Facing Large Vet Bills


Here’s some good news for California pet parents…a bill introduced by State Assemblyperson Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) seeks to provide assistance to pet owners seeking help for large veterinary expenses. The proposed legislation, Assembly Bill 942, would provide for an income tax credit that would let California pet owners write off half of the money spent on veterinary care, up to $2,000 per year.


According to an article in the Sacramento Bee, this tax credit would be for dog and cat owners only, and would cover expenses like vaccinations, check-ups, surgery, X-rays, and prescriptions.


Mathis was inspired to introduce this bill based on the sad fact that pet owners sometimes have to euthanize a seriously sick or injured animal because they cannot afford treatment. The FACE Foundation was founded to end the tragedy of economic euthanasia by providing financial assistance to qualified pet owners for life-saving veterinary care.

We applaud the effort by Assemblyperson Mathis to help end economic euthanasia across California. As he says, “It helps everyone across the state, every family and every pet lover out there.” We couldn’t agree more!