"Ihr Hund" can mean "your dog" as well as "their dog" - how do you know the difference?
I assume in a conversation, you'd pick it up from context. Is there anything else I should know about using "ihr" this way?
Fortunately, there is one more hint. In written German, the first letter of the formal "you" (and all its pronouns) will be capitalized. For instance, you would write: "Ich danke Ihnen" (instead of "ihnen") meaning you, the person, who I am still not addressing with "Du/du". So if you are asking your superior in an e-mail "Wie geht es Ihrem Hund?", you'd refer to your superior's dog and not another female's dog (like another female character who might have mentioned before).
Oh man, now I'm really confused. I thought the two correct answers given for the "Ihr Hund..." sentence was "Your dog..." and "Her dog..." So, "Ihr" in this case can mean "Your", "Her" and "Their"?
Yes! But note that "ihr" in "Ihr Hund" is a pronoun. It is a word of reference to a previously mentioned person/persons. You only use it with clear reference connection, say: "Petra hat einen Hund. ... Ihr Hund ist braun." Else you would be specific: "Der Hund von Petra ist braun."
yes, it often is affected by the context. It is naturally a bit more challenging, when you are given one sentence out of the blue
If ihr is you (plural) how can it mean 'their'. Surely it would just be 'your'. Their would be sie (they)
They is "sie". When "they" is in the genitive case (ownership) it becomes "their", and that is "ihr" in German. So "ihr Hund" can be "her dog", or "their dog" depending on context. "Ihr (formal) Hund" becomes "Your (formal) dog". Makes sense? I've made a cheat sheet that I keep in my wallet simply because it is so easy to get confused. I read it sometimes when I have some spare time. Might be a good idea to try.
No, I'm not sure what you mean by Ihr (formal) Hund becomes Your (formal) dog.
Some Germanic languages like German have a formal version of "you". In German, if you want to be formal with someone then you use "Sie" instead of "du". That pronoun behaves just like the plural pronoun "sie" except for the capitalization. So if you have ownership "Sie" will become "Ihr". So if you have a sentence like: "Ist das Ihr Hund?" were you address a person formally, then it translates to "Is that your dog".