Can Dogs Be Bilingual?

Bonjour, mon pupper! Hello, doggo friend! ¡Hola, perrito! There is nothing like being greeted by your furry friend. But what if you want to speak to your dog in more than one language?

Woman training a dog in backyard
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Communication is everything in a solid friendship, so it is especially important to be on the same page with your best furry friend.

So, if you are a multilingual citizen of the world, you may be curious to know if you and your dog can understand each other. Is it possible to teach your dog a second language? Can dogs be bilingual?

How do dogs learn commands in English?

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, dogs learn commands by association. In other words, a dog owner must associate his or her command with an action and hand gesture. The action is then rewarded with praise, and maybe even a delicious treat, and then repeated to reinforce until your dog can learn a word and associate it with your command.

Pretty cool, right? But this learning process is not exclusive to English speaking dogs. Dogs learn commands in English the same way they learn commands in other languages! So you can give this a shot in German, Spanish, Greek, Italian, Hebrew, or any language you may speak. The world is your oyster!

Can dogs be bilingual?

Yes, dogs can be bilingual, if, in this case, we define "bilingual" as "having the ability to learn commands in two languages." Dogs can even be multilingual! A dog owner who speaks multiple languages can certainly teach their dog to obey their commands in those languages with the aid of hand signals, tone, praise, and body language.

dog sitting for a treat on grass
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Keep in mind that dogs do not understand the human language in the same way that humans do, so it's important to make this distinction when discussing a dog owner's use of multiple languages at home with his pupper.

Benefits of teaching dogs multiple languages

There are a few benefits to teaching dogs multiple languages. Some professionals choose to train dogs in a different language from their native one, simply because the commands do not come up in their everyday conversation. Everyday words in native tongue can be confusing to dogs who hear these words all the time and are trying to distinguish commands from background noise. In addition, therapy dogs who learn multiple languages can provide comfort to people of different backgrounds staying in hospitals, shelters, or rest homes. who may miss their animals or loved ones at home.

Or perhaps you are a dog owner that simply wants to teach your pup commands in different languages because you yourself are multilingual and would like your dog to be the same. All of these are good reasons to teach a dog multiple languages!

Young woman with dog outdoors
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Do dogs really understand what we say?

Yes and no. You may not be able to talk about philosophical theories with your dog and expect him to understand, but you can certainly teach him words and associations through body language, tone, and hand signal. (In fact, it has even been shown that dogs are experts at tone and human body language in particular!) That is not to say you are not welcome to a friendly chit chat with your doggo from time to time—they are great listeners (and snugglers). Besides, what are best pals for?

Conclusion

Dogs are very intelligent and can learn many different words in many different languages through training by association. It is important to note that dogs communicate differently than humans, so while they they may not be bilingual in the truest sense of the word, they certainly can keep up in an international household! Whether it be for your own personal needs, or to serve others, dogs can make the perfect bilingual best pal!