Language and Dogs

You may not know this but at University I studied International Management and Modern Languages.

Having grown up in a bilingual household (French and English) this made perfect sense.

I love languages as I feel that they are the entry point and gateway to discovering the true culture of a country. You only get so far with the locals if you speak English and not even a few phrases to start you off.

Whenever visiting a country where I do not speak the language I always ensure I learn ten or so key words and phrases, so as to endear myself to the locals.

But what has all of this language chat got to do with dogs?

Well… over the 10+ years that we have been walking dogs here in Oslo we have had an extremely international setup. Here is a small snapshot of the languages which have been spoken on our walks:

English, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Hungarian, Russian, Italian, Greek and I am sure that I have forgotten a fair few more.

A quite common question which I hear when meeting potential new dogs and their owners is “what language do you talk to the dogs in?”.

The customer often goes on to explain that they are not sure their dog will understand English were I to speak that.

The truth of the matter is that which language we speak really does not matter that much. If you consider that human to human communication is only 5-10% verbal and 90-95% visual and other… Just imagine what your dog will understand with far superior hearing and sense of smell.

Dogs are able to pick up on intonation and emotion within verbal sounds, allowing them to understand what we are trying to communicate.

Dogs use an all together more encompassing sensory approach to communication. I would go as far as to say that they can smell what you are trying to communicate combined with a look or gesture.

Of course this level of synergy only occurs when walker and dog are well known to each other. We are extremely lucky to have so many dogs whom we have walked for many years.

If you are unsure about this concept please check out the video beneath. In the middle of my afternoon walk today I used the French command “au pied” for come to heel / pΓ₯ plass. Minttu was expected to come and sit by my left leg.

I would like to point out that I have never before used this command in French with her.

As a linguist with a passion for dogs I find this amazing and fascinating.

Doggies: Bamse, Lexi and Leopold

Doggies: Aya, Baileys and Lucy

Doggies: Gulla, Fant, Wilma and Ville

Doggies: Ferd, Samus, Max and Sara

Doggies: Lucy, Pippi, Saga, Mari and Nola

Doggies: Sunny, Hedda, Wilma, Twist and Lucy

Doggies: Jello, Zoe, Simba and Deano

Have a lovely evening with your doggies and we are back again in the morning for more dogwalking in Oslo nature.


Christina, Linn, Veronica, Alex and Matt

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