How many languages does your dog understand?

How many languages does your dog understand?

Last month, Dogs Monthly magazine reported that dogs from the UK are more likely to understand commands in different languages than any other dogs in the world.

The research behind the article was performed by language learning app Busuu, who surveyed more than 2,000 dog owners around the world to find out how multi-lingual our pets are. Spike, the Busuu office dog, a (Lebanese) Maltese adopted from Beirut understands a mixture of English, French, Spanish and Arabic. Surprisingly, more than a quarter of dog owners reported that their pet understood commands in three or more languages. Of these, it was discovered that Spanish is the most popular ‘second language’ for dogs in the UK.

How many languages does your dog speak?

Speaking to Dogs Monthly, animal behaviour specialist and canine body language expert, Sarah Whitehead suggested that it could be down to our subconscious signals: 

“Dogs are amazingly good at making associations between cues – such as words – with our facial expressions and body language. This means that while we might say “Sit” in English, or Japanese, it’s our tiny intention movements – “tells” if you like – that the dog is really picking up on. And of course, once they have made those associations, and get reinforced for it – whether through gaining our attention, or a treat, they repeat it again and again!

“Dogs have evolved to be able to ‘read’ us like true experts – in fact, research tells us that dogs even ‘scan’ human faces in the same way that people do, picking up on our emotional states as well as the clues as to what we are about to do next.

“They really are the ultimate in multilingual communicators, and can rapidly add words to their repertoire of response – no matter what language they are spoken in.”

Head of Education at Busuu, Kirsten Campbell-Howes believes that the dog’s keenness to learn different languages are boosted by their lack of inhibition:

“One of the most common barriers for people learning a new language is shyness or fear of getting things wrong. Our pets, it seems, have no such qualms. Just under half (44 per cent of the Busuu community who own a dog reported that their pet could understand commands in more than one language, irrespective of the breed.

“Whilst our pets don’t have to worry about grammar or complicated vocabulary, they also don’t seem to have a fear of trying, especially for a reward. Spike, a dog who’s often found in the Busuu office can understand commands in four languages. He doesn’t always get every response right, but he has a lot of fun trying.” 

How many languages does your dog speak? Let us know in the comments section below! Perhaps we should have added ‘ learning a new language’ to our list of doggy new years resolutions the other week? Just in case you’d like to learn a few and improve your own pooch’s repertoire, this table shows the most commonly used commands and the range of different languages used.

English French German Italian Spanish Polish
Fetch Attrape Hol Prendi Trae Aport
Sit Assis Sitz Seduto/a Sientate Siad
Get down Descends Runter Vai giù Agáchate Zejdź
Roll over Roule Rolle Rotola Da una vuelta Przewrót
Leave Laisse Ab Lascia Vete Zostaw
Paw Donne la patte Gib Pfötchen Zampa Toca con la pata Łapa
Here Au pied Hier Vieni Aquí Noga
Lie down Couché Platz Terra Túmbate Waruj

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