Pet-ymology: Speaking our dogs’ language

From walkies to din dins, Petplan reveals the weird and wonderful phrases owners use to talk to their dogs.

Dogs are often referred to as man’s best friend, but how well do you communicate with your dog? In a recent survey, we found that a huge 54% of dog owners admitted to having their own language to communicate with their pet!

Did someone say walkies?

A study by scientists at the University of York showed evidence that using ‘dog-speak’ to communicate was important in the relationship building process between owner and dog. This involved using a higher pitched tone, and ‘dog-friendly’ words and phrases, such as ‘you’re a good dog,’ and ‘shall we go for a walk?’

We know our pets react naturally to experiences and routine - from when we fetch a lead from the cupboard, or rattle a food packet, but in a recent study that we conducted here at Petplan, results also highlighted that many pet owners had to lower their voice to prevent their dog from overhearing certain words which might lead to overexcitement - showing that some pets are listening in on conversations more than we might think!

The study revealed that the top 10 words dog owners whisper or disguise to prevent an overreaction were:

The top 10 words dog owners whisper or disguise to prevent an overreaction

What’s more - almost a third of dog owners said their dog understands and reacts to the word ‘vet’, with 32% even creating their own code words for ‘vet’ to avoid their dog becoming anxious ahead of a visit there.

For our expert tips on how to keep your pet calm ahead of a vet’s visit, check out our advice here.

Alongside vet, other words that owners perceived to be their dog’s least favourites were ‘bathtime’, and ‘no’!

Granny holding dog

Conversely, food was a common theme when it came to the words that excite dogs the most. As well as the top 10 above, some owners said ‘chicken’, ‘sausage’ and ‘cheese’ caused excitable reactions from their pups, meaning they had to be careful not to mention these in conversation!

And heart-warmingly, it seems family relationships are at the core of what makes our pets happy, with ‘grandma’ and ‘nanny’s’ also featuring in the list of words that induce a lively, positive energy in our pooches!

The Doggy Dictionary

Within our research into the ways pet owners communicate with their pets, we discovered some truly weird and wonderful phrases shared between dogs and their owners - many of which feature playful repetition or alliteration. Here’s a round-up of our favourites!

1. The Dogter


An alternative word for a veterinary professional, most commonly used by owners to avoid saying the word ‘vet’ and therefore causing their pet anxiety.

“I’ll meet you at 1.30pm - I need to take Charlie to the Dogter first.”

2. Yum Yums


Meaning ‘dinner time’, and referring to the tasty food that awaits.

“It’s time for yum-yums!”

3. Tats


A common alternative for ‘walkies’.

“Let’s go tats!”

4. Booboo


A softer, empathetic way to refer to a wound or injury.

“Let me see that - do you have a booboo?”

5. T&T


An acronym meaning ‘tablet and treat’ - a playful way to announce it’s time for medication and a reward in return.

“Six o’ clock? That means it’s T&T time!”

6. Pitter patter


Another ‘walkies’ alternative, referencing the little pitter patter of paws on the street.

You want to go out again? But we’ve just been for a pitter patter!”

7. Scranules


Taken from the popular northern word for food - ‘scran’, this is a fun take on ‘food’ or ‘dinnertime’ that rolls off the tongue!

“Are you hungry? Are you ready for scranules?”

8. Moon moon


Inspired by the still of the moon, this lovely phrase is used by some to encourage their pup to ‘calm down’.

“Let’s not get too excited… moon moon.”

A note on phonetic spelling

Alongside the quirky phrases used by pet owners to communicate with their pet, there are also times where owners simply don’t want to be overheard.

Whether they’re trying to avoid the overexcited thrill of planning a walk, or want to prevent their dog from getting worked up over a cat’s presence, spelling out trigger words phonetically is a common practice.

Our study showed that the most common words pet owners spell out to avoid having to say out loud in front of their dog were:

  1. V-e-t
  2. L-e-a-d
  3. C-a-t
  4. W-a-l-k

Research conducted by 3Gem on behalf of Petplan January 2024

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