I’m often in awe of people who speak multiple languages as I, on occasion, struggle to keep the sole one that I know straight. I know that for children of bilingual or multilingual families, early exposure to language is the best way to pick it up and as you age it becomes more difficult to learn.
I wonder, though, if this same theory applies to the dogs of multi-language families. Are they able to learn more than one language?
Dogs are actually wizards when it comes to learning new languages. The reason that it’s so easy for them to pick up a new language is because dogs don’t rely on it the same way the humans do.
When humans learn a new language, it takes years of practice to learn the ins and outs of pronunciation, rules, and spelling.
When a dog learns a new language, none of this matters. All a dog needs to understand are the keywords that apply to them, such as sit, stay, and come.
When you take that into account, your dog actually doesn’t necessarily understand that you are speaking English, Spanish, French, or anything else. They simply learn the sound you make, your inflection, facial expression, and body language, and what is expected of them when they hear it.
As long as you are consistent with the words you use for specific commands, your dog will quickly pick them up, regardless of the language they are spoken in. This doesn’t mean that you should teach your dog multiple languages, though.
The more variations to your commands you add, the more confusing it will be for your dog. To make sure your dog understands what you’re telling them, it’s best to use simple, consistent commands paired with hand signals. That way, they are seeing a consistent visual cue to go along with a possibly changing vocal cue. Using this method, your dog should have no problem learning a second or even third language, but any more than that might just be overkill.
H/t to: SlimDoggy