Terminating Baby Talk
October 26, 2010 1 Comment
I’m not sure what it is about newborns or cute furry animals that routinely turn seemingly normal people into incomprehensible squeaky babblers, but it just happens. All the time. Without explanation. We’ve all seen it: a completely anonymous passerby will lock eyes on one of our furry companions and the ensuing behaviour makes it downright difficult to retain any lasting respect that person.
Those who baby talk – to anything, but lets say dogs and puppies specifically for the present purposes – have got to be one of my absolute top pet peeves when it comes to human-pet behaviour.
Or is that flexi-leash use? Or people who never walk their dogs? Or don’t pick up after their dogs? Or people who carry their dogs around (rant forthcoming)? Okay, yes, I am a cranky old curmudgeon on the inside who has a lot of pet peeves. And while it’s hard to know which might be my number one annoyance, suffice it to say that baby talk definitely makes the top 5 list.
Why, you ask? Have you never encountered it? It’s ridiculous and irritating whether aimed at dogs, babies, toys, clothing, anything. Nope, I’m certainly no baby-talker. I’m not immune to inherent cuteness, either; I just have self-control (and self-respect?). Sure, I have been known to utter an “aww” from time to time, but nothing even close to – and I’m just paraphrasing here – “ohhhlookathimisn’thejustthecutestwutestpuppywuppyeverawwlookatthathelovesmedon’tyouwuvme
And perhaps the worst part is that these squealing offenders usually completely disregard the owner at the end of the leash, and rush in all hands and kisses without even checking to see if it might be okay or a good idea.
I also don’t petition for a cease and desist on the baby talk simply because you sound ridiculous; I also recommend an end to it to help propel your own success with your dog.
It’s very simple: the more you talk to them generally, the less your words have meaning. If you use verbal commands with your dog (who doesn’t?), but you are also nattering away at them all the time, telling them how adorable they are, how your day was, what you’re planning to make for dinner, etcetera, eventually they’re going to start to tune you out altogether.
The sad truth is, dogs don’t speak English. Or French. Or Japanese. In fact, when dogs communicate with each other, it’s very largely through body language. So the fact that they obey verbal commands from us at all is because we have taught them to using repetition. But then if they learn – also through repetition – that many of the words you say to them don’t have any relevance to them specifically, then they will stop listening. To anything.
So while talking of any kind can essentially have a detrimental effect on your verbal commands with your dog, think of what baby talk can do.
Baby talk: squealing, high pitched, excitable, annoying as all heck. Do dogs themselves ever make those kinds of noises? Sure, maybe when they are in pain, but not in the normal course, anyway. Does anything else in a dog’s natural life make those kinds of noises? Well, just prey animals and our substitutive squeaky toys.
Before you say it, NO, I am not saying baby talk will incite your dog to attack your face. But I am saying that high-pitched baby talk – and any associated groping – sure can get them excited, which means focus and general good manners and behaviour declines. It’s an inverse relationship.
I know that when strangers approach my dog, all handsy with the baby talk, he quickly gets too excited and you see that glimmer in his eye, indicating his thoughts: “I know I could hump you… I’m just looking for my opportunity”. As an observant owner, I certainly try my best to make sure he doesn’t get that opportunity (because if he does, it could only be my fault, right?), but he’s more likely to go for it the more excited and high pitched his new acquaintance is. [And, of course, whenever possible I do try to direct calm, quiet greetings, but that’s not always possible in the face of a baby talk sneak attack.]
So there you have it: excitement level up = focus down. And baby talk and the standard accompanying behaviour is very exciting for dogs. The dog doesn’t know you’re telling him he’s cute, he just responds to the hysteria accordingly. “Is it crazy frenzy fun time? I’m in!”
In sum, baby talk reaches the high echelons of nonsensical human behaviour. The dogs don’t get it. I don’t get it. It often results in an excited dog the owner now has to manage. And it makes you look silly. No one benefits. Can’t we legislate it or something? If the island of Capri can ban wearing wooden clogs….
Kidding, of course.
Just cut it out.