top cx logo
cx logo
Explorearrow down
search icon
Explore
arrow down

Meet the French dog who is ‘learning to speak’ through a sound mat

Coco the border collie has learned 34 words so far with the help of his language scientist owner

A border collie on a blue background looking at the camera

Coco is a border collie (not the one pictured here) who is learning how to speak with help from his owner Pic: Erik Lam / Shutterstock

A dog in France is learning to ‘speak’ with the help of his owner and a specially-created sound mat, and has mastered the meaning of 34 words so far.

Coco the border collie is nearly 12 months old, and is owned by Meiyun Xu, a doctoral student in language sciences at the university of Bourgogne in Dijon.

Ms Xu is working on her thesis on the language capacity of animals, and is training Coco as part of her work. He uses a mat created by Ms Xu to play the words, which include ‘happy’, ‘want’, ‘play’, and ‘go out’.

She told FranceInfo: “So far, he has learned 34 words, and the most-used are the basic ones, such as go out, eat, play, or cuddles.” Coco has also managed to associate four words in phrase order.

@hello_cocospeaking Coco comprend-il la différence entre "maintenant" et "plus tard" ? Voici deux tests du même jour. Je ferai plus tard un autre test sans parler, seulement avec les boutons. #chien #chienmignon #chiot #bordercollie #foryou #dog #love #pourtoi #bouvier #colley #malinois #puppy #langage #coco #amour #sortir #cute ♬ son original - hello_cocospeaking

The scientist’s work adds to studies that have been done over the past few years, with the current consensus being that dogs can learn up to a thousand words when it comes to their toys, activities, desires or wishes, and emotions.

Ms Xu said: “They already have basic language capacity and know how to express themselves in their own way, but their ‘words’, meaning their actions, their expressions, remain very limited.”

The project is seeking to establish more details on dogs’ aptitude for language via the mat experiment, and in the meantime, Coco’s journey is being followed by more than 40,000 people on TikTok and more than 2,500 on Instagram.

@hello_cocospeaking Il a vraiment compris ce qu'il dit non ? #foryou #pourtoi #love #chien #bordercollie #coco #aime #dog #dogs #jeux #jouer #manger #fatique #ok ♬ son original - hello_cocospeaking
@hello_cocospeaking Il vient de rentrer d'une grande balade, mais réclame encore à jouer dehors Les bordercollies plus énergiques que moi ! #coco #pourtoi #foryou ♬ son original - hello_cocospeaking

Read more

Want a dog but not full-time? Now you can borrow one

Site helps owners plan dog-friendly trips in France

Nice is named the friendliest French city for dogs second year running

The southwestern French town where dog mess could cost owners €750

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
featured helpguide
Income Tax in France 2022 (for 2021 income)*
Featured Help Guide
- Primarily aimed at Britons, covers pensions, rent, ISAs, shares, savings and interest - Overview of online declarations + step-by-step guide to the French printed forms - Includes updates given automatically after this year's site opened
Get news, views and information from France
You have 2 free subscriber articles left
Subscribe now to read unlimited articles and exclusive content
Already a subscriber? Log in now