Why do some dogs seem to understand words spoken in two languages?

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As long as you are very consistent with your hand gestures, a bilingual household shouldn’t be a problem for a dog. A canine will probably be able to learn 150 to 250 words, so teaching commands shouldn’t pose much of an issue. Just remember, it will take additional patience on your part, and the overall process may take a little longer.

Learning his name in two different languages will be the biggest problem for a dog. The greatest variable in the case of two languages is the accent. When training your dog, start with your primary language first. Don’t try to teach the commands all at once in two different languages. If you rush the introduction of languages, the dog will associate the two words together as one verbal marker, and it won’t know how to respond when you only say one without the other.

Be consistent and keep your training sessions upbeat and happy. Begin by teaching the dog basic commands such as:

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Heel
  • Down
  • Come (also sometimes called “recall” or “emergency recall”)

It’s important that your dog know these commands. Above all, they can save his life, especially “come.”  You’ll want to be sure your dog responds to you if you ever need to get out of a dangerous situation quickly. “Heel” will ensure that your dog walks alongside you in an orderly manner. Again, this is primarily a safety issue, and should be prioritized in your dog’s training. “Drop it” will help you keep the dog from ingesting something harmful or even fatal. Some commands like, “down,” are the foundation for other commands such as, “go to your place” or, “rollover.” Others, like, “stay,” will keep your dog from running into danger; this command can also help to calm your dog down, if necessary, because it will need to focus intently on that one task.

Once your dog has these mastered these commands in the primary language, you can teach him again in a different language using the same hand gestures and body language!

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