Friday, 14 May 2010

Bi-lingual or Confused?

So we're trying to train this rather impish dog, who seems to be a lot more feisty than when I rescued her, now that she's over her semi-pneumonia. Utter confusion for the dog since everything goes something like:

Me: (trying to get her to give me whatever she has retrieved thus avoiding a pulling match which is apparently not helping her biting tendancy). "Drop it", while simultaneously tapping the ground. (why she thinks that's a cue to bite my fingers while keeping the ball/sock/I-pod in her mouth beats me.)

But then Little Guy comes along, tries the same thing, only this time the dog hears "Drap it", (American accent.). I think if we say it in the same tone she'll get the basic idea, but it gets worse.

Me: (Trying to get her to give me a paw, not just for the hell of it, but so I can wipe the entire contents of the flower beds off her when she comes in.)  "Give me a paw".

Little Guy: Mom, she won't understand you if you say "Paw" (over-emphasizing my English accent). "You have to say "Pah" (American equivalent.) By now the dog has wandered off, totally bored by the linguistics debate at hand.

I have decided the command to get her to retire for the evening will be "In your bed", since it's about the only one that is pronounced the same by everyone. Growing up, we used to tell my (equally impish) dog to go to her "box" but that comes out like "bax" when said by everyone but me. Poor thing won't know what the heck we want. Of course I could simply tell her to go and "lie down" but these Americans seem to have forgotten that word even exists and would tell her to "go lay down". She's proving hard enough to train without putting these kind of barriers up!


And I don't mean "paw".

(And please, at the risk of appearing incredibly churlish, don't offer any advice. I haven't received so much advice since last pregnant and my head is spinning. I'm currently reading "The Dog Whisperer" and have two more piled up on my bed side table.)


  1. Ha, ha--no advice here--we're trying to keep Young Daggers (our kitten) from plunging off the landing.... Sadly he wasn't around when the little grey cells were being handed out, he only got a teaspoon or two.

  2. Which accent does she bark in?

  3. Dogs can be bilingual. Our dog is from America but we board her with a German lady that speaks no English and she comes home confused but understands her. Too funny it's totally your accent!

  4. Clever dog being bilingual! LOL!

    Nuts in May

  5. A Bilingual dog is possible!

    Our 1 year old german shepard understands 'sit' & 'come' in 2 different languages.


  6. I think that's the funniest thing I've ever read. Maybe you should raise the dog to be trilingual, throw in some French as well.

  7. Do you remember the tv programme "One Man and his Dog"? About sheepdog trials?

    There was a Welsh hill farmer once on that, and he had 3 dogs. He worked them at the same time, using commands in English for one, commands in Welsh for the second, and whistling commands for the third.

  8. Our two dogs that have grown up in Peru are bilingual - they know English and Spanish for most of the commands we give them.. it's funny though, some commands, everyone gives in English (like 'get out of the kitchen!') while others are always in Spanish. On the other hand, our poor Sheltie who grew up in the US has a perpetual confused look on his face as he tries to figure out the Spanish commands.

  9. Hi I am thinking how your Grandad (my uncle my favourite one ) would have given your lovely little pooch instructions something like Lie Doon ... LOvely Geordie accent for lie down!!!!

    Do you ever find yourself lapsing into your native tongue.

    I take on the voice all I talk too.

    Folk must think I am crackers.
    Best of luck with the training. XXX

  10. oops - sorry for all the useless advice yesterday!! x

  11. No advice on dogs at all from me. Just giggling at the thought of having linguistic discussions in front of one.

  12. Nic - Advice with practical directions is one thing, advice with no back-up is quite another. You can stay.

    EG - I remember grandad saying "Gedoon" when we climbed around, in a very deep voice that we somehow knew wasn't "for real". He also used to annoy Vron by telling us to "Put your hand in the fire pet". His little joke. It's no wonder we are like we are. Apparently when I talk to the dog I do it with a Geordie inflection and lots of "bonnie girl"s.

    Iota and Kelly - I do think it must be up to the individual dog. I had a really intelligent yet stupid dog growing up. You could tell her to give you a paw in any language, as long as the inflection was the same. This one though, just bites my hand.

  13. Our dog is bilingual as well---American and English. When my husband says ball it sounds like bull. Imagine how confused our dog is when he chases the bull, retrieves it and is asked to drop it at my husband's feet. And he's juat a little dog, a border terrier, chasing a bull.

  14. I had a dog that understood french & english! I trained Molly using the Dog Whisperer's methods. Basically give her a treat after she follows a command & then alternate it with a "good girl pat" before she gets obese!For biting hold their mouth closed & tell them "no bite" in a strict voice. If she is a puppy let her mouth your hand but if she hurts do the " no bite thing" & then let her mouth it again & if she does not hurt tell her she is a good girl & give her a treat. Good luck! I spent last year doing this & now Molly is a trooper!

  15. I taught our dog sign language commands as there was already too much shouting in English and American when we got her. Dogs aren't dumb, that's for sure.
    I like your new page front x

  16. I can't offer you any advice I"m afraid - haven't got a clue about dogs - very impressed with your efforts Lx

  17. Try Victoria Stilwell's website and blog - they may be helpful, she seems to have some excellent results with dogs (she also did the "its me or the dog" tv series").

  18. That is hilarious.

    Me, I'm just mortified that my neighbours now seem to understand what my son is saying better than I do.....

  19. Now that's a problem I never would have considered - trying to train a dog when there are different accents in the house. lol! Toni, your experience with this dog might be a good subject for your next book.

  20. I think it's all in the tone of the voice rather than the accent, and probably the English 'paw'said briskly sounds deeper and more authoritative than the more American,gentle sound of 'pah', so I would stick to the English for results! Probably complete twaddle, but well meant from another doggy owner!(mind you, mine have always been badly behaved!!!)


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