How To Reason With Your Dog

That dogs reason and have the ability to reason is a conclusion we all should like to have in our minds. Yet, judged by the strict requirements laid down by psychology, the dog does not reason. Much of the argument hinges upon the meaning given to the word reason or thinking, which is the twin of reasoning.

To reason is to compare, to seek likenesses and differences, to go to the unknown from the known. It is this last process which conquers the dog’s mind. Thinking is the product of reasoning: therefore, what is said here regarding reasoning applies equally to thinking.

The mind of the dog responds to memory, whether the memory is one of fear or pleasure. To memory or association is added the ability to imitate. These together form the background of the dog’s mental processes. They may be acquired thru the instinct handed down generation after generation, or thru the training of the dog by his master. This is set forth in the chapter Bases of Acquiring Knowledge by the Dog.

General, my doberman, as is characteristic of his breed, has a long nose by nature and by curiosity. One day he poked it into everything, including a jar of vaseline. In half punishment and half foolery, I daubed a generous portion on his nose at a spot where his tongue could not lick all of it away.

He shook his head but the grease still remained on his nose. In shaking his head, he rubbed his nose against a front leg and in doing this, rubbed the vaseline on the leg. He immediately licked it off his leg.

A few days later, I again daubed some on his nose. He licked a bit of it off and then, with small hesitation, rubbed his nose against his leg and cleaned the grease off his leg with his tongue.

Every time since when I have daubed his nose, be goes thru the same procedure. By accident, he learned it, by memory he repeated it after the first time.

But the dog can not work out a syllogism or other form of reasoning according to the laws of logic, which are the laws determining the methods of reasoning.

Let us illustrate. The dog is hungry. We tie him with a rope ten feet long. We place a piece of meat fourteen feet away or four feet from the farthest distance he can reach. A rake six feet long is placed where the dog can grasp it. He could seize the end of the rake with his teeth and pull the meat toward him; but he does not do this and he starves to death. We could in his presence and sight go to the spot he can reach nearest the meat, take the rake in our hands and pull the meat within reach of us and the dog.

The dog might be trained after a time to seize the rake and pull the meat toward him; but this would be a matter of training thru imitation and memory and not a matter of reasoning of his own originality.

My dog was playing eagerly with a ball. I took it from him and he was anxious to have it again. I placed it on a long table; at one end of the table was a chair. He tried many times to leap up for the ball; at last he concluded he could not get it. He could have walked ten feet away to the chair, leaped easily upon it, and from it leaped easily to the table and then obtained the ball.

I did later place the chair at a position next to the table and near to the ball. At once he leaped on the chair and then on the table.

Within an hour later, I placed the chair and ball in their first positions. After a moment’s hesitation, he went to the chair, leaped on it and then on the table. He did what he would not do previously; but he did it out of memory and imitation.

If I had in the first instance left the chair at the end of the long table, it is likely that in time the dog would have leaped on it and then to the table; but this he would have done by accident or the impulse of the moment.

When I put on my hat and coat, my dog leaps joyously; he knows I am going out and he wants to go with me. He has not reasoned; he remembers that in the past, when I did this, I usually went out at once.

Some time ago, on a very hot day, when one of our dogs was about to eat his meal out of his food dish, we playfully threw some water onto him from his drinking bowl. Usually on a very hot day he was delighted to have the hose turned on him.

On this particular occasion, he ran away from the food dish and did not relish the water-throwing at all.

Strangely each time since then and that occurred months ago when his full water dish is placed down on the floor next to his food dish, he steps back hurriedly in fear. We .have been unable to assure him that we will not throw any more water on him and that originally the affair was merely in fun. It is likely that he will carry this inhibition with him during the rest of his life.

Dogs on the stage do acts that seem unexplainable except as acts of clever reasoning. They are acts of clever reasoning, not of the dogs but of their trainers.

Dogs may on command, pick out a certain numbered card, may pick out a certain color, may pick out the card containing the correct answer to a question. The command may be given in the ordinary tone of voice and without any accompanying gesture.

These acts are not acts of reasoning. I once had a dog that would get up and rush to me when I wished him to do so and yet I did not utter a sound or make a gesture.

At first I would pull him toward me with a lead. At the same time 1 would jerk my head. After about two weeks I was able to have him come by jerking my head and without pulling the leash. I then kept the lead out of sight. After another two weeks I succeeded in having him come to me when I twitched my eye and screwed up the side of my face. I then left out the twitch and only flirted with him with my eye, gave him a wide wink and he came.

Dogs may bark or scratch with the paw as often as a certain number but they stop, not when in their minds the number has been reached but when they note a certain sign from their trainer, which sign they have been taught means stop. This sign may be exceedingly slight and not be noticeable to the onlooker.

A dog may go to two pieces of meat; when he comes to one, the trainer shouts “poison” and the dog takes the other piece. The dog does not know the meaning of the word poison.

A dog may pick out a certain color tho he knows not whether a color is red or black. I once trained a dog to pick out red from four colors. The trick astonished my friends. The red, yellow, green and white cards. I placed about four feet apart. I had placed some fresh meat behind the red card and of course, the dog always stop at the red card. It was necessary, however, for me to go behind the cards and secretly place the meat behind whatever color I wished him to choose. One of the most intelligent acts of dogs is that of pointing by the pointer or setter in the field. A pointer puppy may point the first time he comes into contact with game in the field. This act may be performed eagerly and with zest. Yet it is done by each individual in almost the same manner. The pointer does not know consciously that he is aiding his master in locating game.

Generations ago some hunter in the field had a pointer dog that showed his pointing tendency naturally and efficiently. He was trained further and he was used as a stud. Other owners of pointers in the neighborhood likely chose those pointers of theirs which did this act most naturally and efficiently. Thus by human selection of breeding and by intense training, the pointing ability became instinct and was passed from one generation to another.

The following ten animals were once chosen by some publicityseeking professor as the most intelligent in the animal kingdom: chimpanzee, orangutan, elephant, gorilla, dog, beaver, horse, sea lion, bear and cat.

If the ratings be placed on the basis of memory, imitativeness and capacity for training, the dog clearly comes first. It is true that in original thot, chimpanzee and orangutan occasionally will excel, but if all their actions be considered, they do not advance as far or in as varied field as does the dog. For instance, a chimpanzee might, seeing an article out of his reach, pick up a stick or rod and try to bring the food within reach. This a dog does not do.

Few experiments were so startling as that conducted by W. N. and L,. A. Kellogg (1933, Indianapolis), who actually brot up, reared, and trained Gua a chimpanzee (a great ape, to be distinguished from the lesser monkeys and baboons), in their home as the constant companion in every way, receiving the same care, food, toys and everything else as their son Donald, during Donald’s age, 8 to 18 months, a similar age to Gua’s.

The chimpanzee learned to do the same acts more rapidly than the child but toward the end, his speed of learning decreased, whereas Donald’s began to increase and to cover wider fields. In brief, Gua learned little or nothing from human association; his speed of development was chiefly in the instincts of his species. When these were near their extent, he slowed up; reasoning did not come to his aid as it began to come to the aid of Donald.

Nita, German shepherd trained to lead a blind Chicago lawyer, presents a striking illustration of the true definition of reasoning. She was taught, as are all dogs trained to serve as sight for the unseeing, to lead her master out of the street and on the sidewalk. A snow blizzard, one of those for which Chicago in April is noted, tied up traffic, this in 1940. Ice and snow were falling from cornices of skyscrapers. The pavement alongside the building in which the attorney had his oMce, was roped o{f on this account and a barrier put up to guide traffic into the street. But Nita would not go into the street; she disregarded the obstruction and insisted upon leading the blind lawyer along the dangerous sidewalk.

We need not feel too badly over the inability of the dog to reason. Some humans do not reason, tho able to do so, and few humans use their brain to its full capacity. Dogs use their mental powers within ninety percent of the utmost whereas the average human uses his within about forty percent of the utmost.

The dog judged as a dog is nearer perfection than is the man judged as a man. We must judge the dog as a dog and not by human requirements.