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Imagine that you have adopted a new dog. You are so excited to add such a wonderful dog to your home and family. The dog has been really well taken care of by his former owners, but do to unfortunate circumstances they had to give him up. You have been told that he has been through a basic obedience class, and the rescue that he came from has even given you a list of commands that he knows. Your family speaks mostly Spanish at home though, and many visitors to your home are still in the process of learning English, so communication with your new dog is limited. Due to these things, his obedience seems to be decreasing every week.
Wouldn't it be nice to teach your dog how to respond to Spanish instead of English? Nobody would have to remember to switch languages when they interact with your dog, and those who do not speak Spanish could interact with him as well.
There are many scenarios that would make it important to teach a dog a particular language. Perhaps you are moving to another country and want your dog to respond to the people there. Perhaps you are training a dog for someone else who speaks Spanish. Perhaps you speak Spanish and would like to talk to your dog in your native language. Whatever the reason is, training a dog to respond to Spanish commands is just as easy as teaching your dog to respond to commands in any other language.
If your dog already knows commands in another language, then rather than taking the time to reteach your dog the command completely, the easiest thing to do is to use the 'Replacement' method. This method will allow you to train your dog to respond to a Spanish word using the command that he already knows in another language.
If your dog already knows a hand signal for a command, then rather than completely reteaching your dog a command, you can utilize your dog's understanding of the hand signal by using the 'Hand Signal' method. If your dog knows a verbal command in a language besides Spanish that goes with his hand signal, then simply replace the verbal command with your Spanish command while giving your dog the hand signal, and follow the rest of the training steps.
If your dog has never learned a particular command before or you are uncertain about whether or not your dog knows the command, then you can teach your dog how to do the command in Spanish by using the 'Insert' method. Because the steps for training a dog are the same no matter what language you choose to train in, you can choose any method for training a dog a command in any language, and when it is time to give your dog a verbal command then you can simply use a Spanish word rather than an English, German, or other language's word for the command.
To get started you will need lots of small, tasty treats. If you are using the 'Replacement' method then you will also need to know the non-Spanish words that your dog already know for the commands. You will also need to know the Spanish words for the commands that you would like to teach.
If you are using the 'Hand Signal' method then you will also need to know what hand signals that your dog knows for things. You will also need to know the Spanish words for the commands that you intend to teach.
If you are using the 'Insert' method, you will need a resource that will teach you how to train the specific command that you would like to teach, such as Wag! Walking's training resources page, where you may have found this article. For example if you are teaching your dog "Sentado", the Spanish word for "Sit", then you will need to find a resource that will teach you how to train your dog to sit, and you will need to choose a method for teaching 'sit' such as the 'Treat Luring' method. Using your chosen method and resource, you will then be able to teach your dog whatever command you would like to, by applying the steps in the 'Insert' method to your other training.
For all of the methods, you will need patience, consistency, and a great attitude for motivating your dog, communicating with your dog, and having fun.
The Replacement Method
Choose a command
To begin, choose a command that your dog already knows in another language, such as English.
Tell your dog the Spanish word for that command and then the English word for that command. If your Spanish command is 'Sentado', then tell your dog "Sentado, sit".
Praise your dog and reward him with a treat when he obeys.
Repeat your Spanish command followed by your English command at least thirty times, rewarding your dog every time he obeys.
After your dog has performed the command at least thirty times with both of the commands, then tell your dog the Spanish command and wait seven seconds before telling him the English command also. If he obeys your Spanish command during the seven seconds, then praise him and give him five treats, one at a time. If he only obeys your English command, then praise him but only give him one treat.
If your dog does not obey your Spanish command, then practice telling him the Spanish command, waiting seven seconds, and then telling him the English command. Do this until he obeys your Spanish command before you have given him the English command also.
When your dog will obey your Spanish command, practice the command until he will obey it consistently.
The Insert Method
Choose a method
To begin, choose what command you would like to teach, and choose which method you would like to use for teaching that command in another language, such as English. For example, you might choose to teach 'sit' using a treat luring method.
Replace the word
After you have chosen what command you would like to teach, and which method you would like to teach it with, then follow the training instructions for that method. When you reach the part in that method where you would normally give your dog an English verbal command, such as "Sit", tell your dog the Spanish word for that command instead, such as "Sentado".
When your dog does the behavior that you are trying to teach, then praise your dog in a happy tone of voice in whatever language you would like, and then give him a treat.
Repeat the process for teaching your dog the command until he is ready to move onto the next step. While you are practicing the command, continue to use the Spanish word for that command in place of the word from another language.
When your dog will respond to your Spanish word, then practice the command until he can do it consistently. To improve your dog's skill even more, practice the command around different types of distractions, from farther away, and in new locations. Now teach your dog more Spanish commands!
The Hand Signal Method
Choose a hand signal
Choose a hand signal that your dog already knows. For example, if your dog knows how to stay when you hold out your hand, then use your dog's hand signal for 'stay'.
Get your dog's attention and give him his hand signal for the command; while you are doing this, also tell him the Spanish word for that command.
Praise and reward your dog with a treat or toy when he obeys.
Practice telling your dog the Spanish word for the command while also giving him his hand signal for that command. Do this at least thirty times over the next few days.
After you have practiced at least thirty times, then begin to tell your dog the Spanish command before you give him the hand signal. Practice this fifteen times.
Phase out hand signal
After you have practiced giving the Spanish word first, then phase out the hand signal. To phase out the hand signal, tell your dog the Spanish command, then wait seven seconds before giving him the hand signal for that command. If he obeys your verbal command during the seven seconds then praise him and give him five treats, one treat at a time.
If your dog does not obey your Spanish command before you give the hand signal, then repeat the process until he will obey the Spanish command before you give him the hand signal. Give him only one treat if he obeys your hand signal while you practice this, but give him five treats if he obeys your Spanish command.
Add more commands
When your dog will obey your Spanish command without your hand signal, then practice until he will do it consistently. Now that he knows a Spanish command, practice the command often, teach him even more Spanish commands, and have fun!
Written by Caitlin Crittenden
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 02/26/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
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