“Hello, Bonjour, Hola, Woof!” Can A Dog Be Multilingual?

Exploring how dogs associate words and sounds

By Catalina Barrios

When it was time for my son to start school I decided to enroll him in a French immersion program for junior kindergarten and switched him to a fully French-language school in senior kindergarten. With my son now speaking, writing, and reading in three languages – English, Spanish, and French – I know it has been one of the best decisions I have made.

I have always wondered if dogs can be bilingual or even multilingual. Can dogs learn more than one language? Let’s find out…

Dogs don’t understand or rely on languages in the same way as humans do. They learn to associate certain words with certain things regardless of what sound it is. The more we say a word to them, the more they will get used to it. It turns out, Get Leashed has met a few bilingual and multilingual dogs whose parents each speak a different mother tongue.

Dogs do not understand English or any other human-created language entirely, but they do understand sounds in any language. For example, after telling my dog, “Siéntate” (sit) she has learned to associate this word with a behavior and ends up sitting when she hears the word. She understands when I ask her to sit both in Spanish and English.

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