Multilingual Mutts: The Pros and Cons of Teaching Foreign Language Dog Commands

Teaching foreign language dog commands is a way to train your dog

All dog owners know their pups are smart and, for many, it seems like their dog really can understand what they’re saying. Although this idea isn’t accurate, animals can associate certain words with behaviors and/or consequences (e.g., “sit,” “walk,” and “no”).

Because of their unique understanding of certain aspects of human speech, body language, and even facial expressions, it’s possible to train your dog to “speak” in a different language. Using foreign language dog commands can be fun and may even be beneficial to your dog’s training and comprehension.

Foreign Language Dog Commands

The working dog community has been using languages other than English to train their dogs for many years, mainly because working dogs historically came from other countries. Training them in their home language simply made for a smoother transition.

Training a dog using foreign language dog commands is becoming more popular among owners and trainers of non-working dogs. The following benefits are often cited:

  • Foreign language dog commands are unlikely to be used in everyday conversations, which can otherwise be confusing to dogs.
  • Some languages, such as German or French, tend to be used more frequently in dog training due to their distinct tones and inflections.
  • Teaching a command in a foreign language can be a good way to “start over” with a behavior, allowing the dog to learn in a different or more effective way, without the old associations interfering.
  • Learning any new skill can be a fun, challenging activity for both dog and owner. This provides important mental stimulation while also strengthening the human-animal bond.

Sit, Sitz, Sientate

Perhaps the biggest downside to using foreign language dog commands is that not everyone will know them! If a dog only recognizes German or Spanish words for basic obedience commands, it can be difficult (or impossible) for anyone other than the owner to issue commands.

Consistency is Key

Consistency and praise are cornerstones of dog training, and teaching foreign language dog commands is no exception. Begin with the following steps:

  • If your dog is already “fluent” in English obedience commands, start by translating these known commands into the new language. Say the English command first, followed immediately by its foreign language equivalent. Praise your dog as soon as they comply.
  • Be consistent with the word or words you use to avoid confusion (languages tend to contain several different words that have the same meaning).
  • Practice giving the foreign language command in different locations at various times of day. Make it fun by practicing during playtime or while on a walk.
  • Make sure to give LOTS of praise! Never scold your dog for failing to perform the command; simply try again.

Have you been successful in teaching your dog a new language? We’d love to hear about it! Let us know during your next appointment or post on our social media page!

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