Do you talk to your dog? We do! Little did I know, but this was one habit that proved to be very useful when Baby came along.
I talk to Loki and Jujube all the time as if they understood me. And I realized that if you repeat the same set of words or phrases, then they eventually DO understand. For instance, when I get my coat and socks on, they think that they are going out for a walk. I see that they are all excited, so I glance over at them and say "sorry". Nowadays, they understand that sorry just means that they aren't going anywhere. I also ask them how their day was and ask if they missed me. I'm not sure if they understand, but I assume that they do. Perhaps they only understand it as words upon my return. We also ask them, "Do you want to go out?", "Do you want to go on a walk?", and "Do you want a treat?" They definitely know "out", "walk", and "treat". They know a bunch of different words that we've never specifically taught. And they only learned because we talk to them.
So, how is this useful when you have a baby? Well, language experts say that babies begin to understand language far earlier than when they begin to speak. The best way to encourage their language skills is to talk to them all the time as if they understood you. And you know what? Perhaps they do understand. I talk to Baby all the time. I tell him "I'll be right back" if I'm going away for a second and "Let's change your diaper" if I'm about to change his diaper. I ask him, "Are you hungry?" and "Do you want more?". If I always say "I'm going to change your diaper" right before a diaper change, then perhaps he will associate that sentence with a diaper change. Now, I don't really know for sure whether or not he understands, but I assume that he does. And well, one day he will. I just don't know exactly when.
I bet for some people it seems difficult to talk to someone who doesn't talk back. But I had plenty of practice on the dogs and that's one way in which having dogs has made my transition to motherhood easier.