For any dog lover and owner this might not be a surprise, but dogs do have the capacity to learn and understand more than one language!
Dogs are known to be able to register 1000 words on average, which is more than many humans manage to remember after years of school. Because of this capacity dogs demonstrate not only “to” be better than many human most of the time, but even smarter!
Don’t be misled by the concept that dogs speak different languages between countries or each other, woof woof and bau bau, are only human representations of the dogs barking sounds, as a matter of fact, dogs all share the same language and understand each other no matter the nationality, breed or origins.
Many dog training camps command actions from our four legged friends in German. Is it because dogs understand German better? NO! It is due only to the vocal and phonetic strength of the German language. Indeed ‘strong’ words attract the dogs’ attention better, as they would do for any human.
Any dog can be taught different languages, although I would recommend not exceeding 2 or 3 for the sake of the sanity of everyone involved. Always remember though that, as for any child, while learning a new language the magic factor is to reinforce every effort and maintain consistency!
When purchasing dogs many owners are intimidated at the thought of changing names or languages. Just because a dog is younger it does not mean that the process will be any easier. Remember, the tone of voice is really the best tool in this method. Usually, in order to teach any language or substitute one language for another (as with changing names), it is only necessary to say the original name or word and after pausing for a few seconds, introduce the new word, soon enough the dog will acknowledge that the two words are related. Many times dogs assimilate words with actions, and indeed dogs can perfectly understand sign language too, so during the introduction of the new language use manual representations and movements to support the message and make it clearer.
I have never properly trained my dog, he just did not want to pay attention to any trainer, but when it came to me or my mum talking in Portuguese, Italian or English, between us or with him, I know he was following the conversation every time! Never forget that dogs have the capacity to be really emotive and sympathetic, but most importantly, they are also able to process events and think abstractly, which is a capacity that the majority of humans have lost and which helps them perceive and understand different situations and actions without issue, thus taking everything in.
In conclusion, dogs are able to understand us and cope with many situations; they can learn different languages as long as anything is put into context. To be honest I think they just really become symbiotic with us. For love they can do and be what we like. We think some dogs cannot be trained and do not listen, but is this really true? Maybe try using a different language ;)!