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Utah Dog Learns to Speak

Eight-year-old Golden Retriever from Cottonwood Heights became YouTube sensation by learning how to speak English.


Eight-year-old Golden Retriever, Otto, who lives with his family in Cottonwood Heights, became a YouTube sensation by learning to speak English. So far he can say five words: Yes, No, Please, Danger, and Popcorn.

According to dog owners Heike and Kristian Hasselkopf, undocumented immigrants from Düsseldorf, Germany, many animals are capable of learning to speak.

Heike grew up with a parrot named Max who had an extensive vocabulary. However, Max suffered from brain cancer and in a fit of rage attacked Heike, causing her to develop bird phobia and PTSD.

Düsseldorf has a large bird population which made Heike’s life unbearable. “I did not dare to go outside at all, and spent all my days in front of a screen, binge-watching RTL Crime,” says Heike with tears in her eyes. Nine years ago, she left Germany and found safety and Kristian in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Despite her phobia of parrots and birds in general, Heike yearned to have a pet with whom she could talk, so when she and Kristian became aware of the existence of Utah Shelter for Less Fashionable Pure Breeds, they decided to rescue a Golden Retriever puppy. 

“It was love at first sight,” Heike said. “He was meant to be ours and he was meant to learn how to talk,” they both reminiscenced. For the next eight years they spent eight hours a day teaching Otto how to talk with enviable success. 

“He [Otto] still has a problem matching the words to the right situations, but that understanding will come with time,” shares Kristian. 

They hope to teach Otto two more words, Movies and Sweet, by the end of his life.

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