America For Beginners

Bringing American culture closer to new immigrants

[Thoughts] Does My Dog Speak English?

I have a question. It’s not a question in the full sense of the word  but rather some loud thinking.

My roommates are American and so are their pets. So, what language should I speak to the dog? English or Russian?

The most reasonable solution is probably just to use the language the pet was trained in.  English, that is.  It is easier for everyone: the dog hears familiar sounds, and my roommates don’t have to guess what kind of evil conversation I’m trying to have with their dog.

But what about those situations when you just want to say something to a pet and there is no one else around to influence your language choice. Should I still stick to English assuming that the dog will better comprehend me or it doesn’t really matter because it’s not about specific training commands at that point?

There is also an opinion that intonation and the tone of voice play as an important role as words. Given that it is true, dogs might sometimes respond to your command in a particular context of tonality and intonation rather than to a word itself.

By the way, many people seriously consider their pets bilingual due to multiculturalism in the family (“Our dog speaks Spanish and English”). Well, I’m not sure about “speaks” but maybe there is some truth to that claim.


One comment on “[Thoughts] Does My Dog Speak English?

  1. gfsimons
    July 12, 2011

    For what it is worth, Anna, a couple comments.

    Some years ago in California I had a new rather large dog that I though might benefit from some formal training so I took advantage of a local dog trainer who did sessions every Saturday morning. To my surprise he trained both the dogs (and the masters) in German commands, though he was himself not German, e.g., “zur Fuss!” rather than “Heel!” Perhaps he believed that the harsher, more consonental language would be retained and obeyed easier, or perhaps someone has tested this–I don’t know, but at home we quickly substituted English terms and the dog did not seem confused, or course, being a Doberman perhaps he was patronizing us.

    I have also read of research that tells us that the right kind of music and gently talking to your house plants will make them grow better. Apparently my mint needs a good talking to, though my Olivier (my bonsai olive tree) seems to be doing quite well on his own. Perhaps there are appropriate languages for different plants, e.g., Italian for tomatoes, Spanish or Hindi for chili peppers, depending on the recipe they are intended for. 🙂

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This entry was posted on July 11, 2011 by in Intercultural Communication and tagged , , , .

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