Many devoted pet owners talk to their pets as a way of communicating and bonding. Dogs and cats love the sound of their owners’ voice, and hearing it, especially in warm conversational tones, is very soothing and comforting. By deliberately talking to our pets as we do whatever we’re doing is a way of teaching them a bit of our language. Most dogs and cats can pick up on the words that are really important to them, like “dinnertime.”
We generally talk to our pets in a gentle, friendly way when we’re just chatting about the day. We’re not concerned about communicating anything more than “I enjoy your company.” We’re not asking anything of them, nor expecting a response. Dogs and cats are generally relaxed during this kind of chat because they don’t have to understand our words; they just know they’re being included.
When we’re actually trying to communicate something specific to our pets is when it gets more difficult. What we may not be so aware of is that since our pets have limited capacity to understand our language, they are mostly attuned to our tone of voice. This is easy for us to understand when we put it in context of a foreign language. If someone speaks to you in Japanese, you can generally gather, by tone of voice, whether she is asking for help, angry with you, warning you of danger or trying to sell you something.
Dog and cat communication is more basic. Dogs and cats come from much simpler worlds, where their mothers communicate using very basic sounds for training. A subtle growl was a warning to behave or of pending danger. A short, high-pitched bark from mom dog or a trilling sound from mom cat meant, “Hey, I brought you some food!” Most mammals are naturally inclined to slow or stop when hearing a low sound and motivated to get active when hearing a high sound.
Dog Training Is More Effective with the Right Tone of Voice
Notice when you talk to your pets in a higher voice, they perk up, become attentive, and may get excited. Talk to them in a low voice, slowly, and they may stop and wait cautiously to see what’s going to happen next.
If you are trying to train your dog and your dog commands just aren’t working, it could be because your tone of voice. If you’re giving dog commands like “sit!” or “stay!” in a high perky voice. In dog language, the your tone of voice is communicating, “let’s play!” Your dog commands will work better if you use a low tone of voice and draw it out slowly saying, “si-i-i-t” and “staaaaay.”
Conversely, you may using a dog command like “come” in a low tone of voice, thinking that will compel her to obey. But in dog language, your tone may be a cue to stay right where she is or even back away because you’re communicating that she’s in trouble. But say “come!” in a higher pitched voice and it sounds like an engraved invitation with a liver snap inside.