Multi-Lingual Dogs

Multi-Lingual Dogs
One dog says, Allons-nous de la falaise fiscale? The other says, "That's because your people spend too much."

"écorce, écorce"....if you are French you know that translates to "bark, bark.:

If a proposed law in Montreal goes into effect, all dogs in the Canadian city will need to understand commands in both English and French. Sounds like some sort of satirical story from the Onion, right. But the politician supporting this law isn't kidding.

Montreal city councilor Benoit LaDouce, who made the proposal, told CBC Radio, "The various dog commands are incomprehensible to each other." He said a dog began to lick at his face, but didn't understand when asked to "stop" in French. "Our alienation from each other was absolute," LaDouce said. (No word on why if he didn't want his face licked, he didn't just move away).

Maybe LaDouce has a point. Increasingly, in America many families (at least a third of all pet owners) live with dogs and also cats - both. So, I believe that cats ought to go to dog training class to learn how to speak dog. Also, dogs must learn the nuanced difference between "meow" and and a purr.

LaDouce wants all dogs in the city to learn at least 80 to 90 commands in both languages, calling the task "basic stuff." most dogs know 80 cues in even one language? In his proposal LaDouce pointed out that trained dogs are  able to learn about 160 words, according to Animal Planet.

And what of the dog owners who are not bilingual? As CBC Radio host Pat Kelly points out, having to learn a second language only to impart a few dozen commands to your pet would be an expensive and time-consuming exercise. For example, only about 20 percent of people in the U.S. are able to hold a conversation in a second language, according to the U.S. Census.

"Expensive or opportunity, which way do you want to look at it?" LaDouce said in response. "Now, suddenly, just by having a dog, I'm opening up to different kinds of knowledge."

He said he hopes to get the law passed and put into effect by summer 2013. "I'm working on it day and night," he said.


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  • Hi Steve, As you know, I live in Montreal. This story was done by a satirical radio show called "This is That". It is NOT a true story! It got picked up by various social media and some real news groups also thought it was true and picked it up. The CBC finally posted a story about it to set the record straight. The news story is titled: "No, dogs don't have to be bilingual in Montreal" and here is a link:

    But the fact is ... many in Montreal also got fooled and believed the initial story, which says a lot about the language tensions here. There really is a "language police" that enforce language laws that restrict the use of English. And with the recent provincial election in which the separatist Parti Quebecois won with a promise to toughen the language laws against the use of English ... tensions are rather high. So, a story suggesting that dogs need to understand commands in both English and French actually sounds like something that someone would try to do.

    There really was an incident back in 1996 about a parrot in a pet store in Quebec City that spoke only English. I couldn't find any original news stories from the time but there are a few references to it in other news stories from a few years later which say that someone (a French speaker) that wanted to buy the parrot was upset that the bird spoke only English and threatened to call the language police about it. But I couldn't find any news sources that said if anything came of it. Some personal blogs claim the pet shop owner was fined and the parrot seized and killed ... BUT I haven't seen that verified anywhere and is likely just a blogger's embellishment.

    Anyway, the story of a bylaw requiring dogs to understand commands in both English and French is not true and just a spoof. But many, including many in Montreal, thought it was true ... which is more of a commentary on the language tensions in the city.

    Stephanie in Montreal

  • Parrot who only speaks English, and it makes news?? I don't know that piece - but yes - I now understand this was a sort of hoax. As I refer, cats will soon be mandated by law to speak dog.

    I always love hearing from you....and, by the way, personally love visiting Montreal (though I do not speak French).

    Merry Christmas -

  • Seriously, there was a Crime Stoppers show on Channel 50.1 showing the Hobart, Indiana Police Dept. canine unit training. Anyway, after explaining that one dog was actually a Czech Shepherd, and another a Belgian Tervuren, they showed the officers giving the dogs commands in German.

    Which raises the question: is that the dogs' native language, or if the police trained the dogs in Spanish, certain ethnic groups could call them off?

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