How A Dog Acquires Knowledge

In the animal kingdom, knowledge can be divided into primary and secondary. The spider weaves its web artistically and precisely according to geometric design without example or instruction. The two birds when mating build their nest according to the design of their own particular species even tho they have never had any previous practice. Fish can swim the moment they are born. This knowledge does not come from instruction or from observing The parents.

Similarly the dog has a certain amount of knowledge which can be termed primary knowledge. But most knowledge considered primary or instinctive is really acquired by imitation of parent or other dogs. For example, the puppy learns to bark by bearing other dogs bark. ‘Me puppy taken from its mother and other puppies at the age of two weeks, may never bark; the sounds from its throat resemble howling or whining rather than barking.

The common practice of the male dog raising its one bind leg when it wets is not instinctive. Some male dogs learn this rather late because they have not had other male dogs as instructors. The male dog raised among females may squat rather than follow the usual male practice. The ability of animals to acquire secondary knowledge, that is, knowledge by experience, is extensive. Dogs by reason of imitation of other dogs and of humans, due to their close contact with humans, perhaps lead the animal kingdom in the ability to acquire secondary knowledge. This may be termed their ability to imitate new things and adjust themselves quickly to new environment.

Memory thru association is the factor that adds to secondary knowledge. The bIuejay, upon evidence of fear or approaching danger, shrieks loudly in the woods. Other species of life soon learn to associate this cry with fear and they too scurry away to places of safety. But this secondary knowledge is carried on from one generation to another by the example of parents until it may become instinctive.

Riding in automobiles has become a pleasure for the dog. The strange sounds over the radio do not incite or excite him. The dog crosses the street now after first looking both ways for approaching auto mobiles. The dog refuses to be oldfashioned. He is now waiting for television, gyroscopes and boneless fish.

Pain and hunger are the two basic instructors of animals. It may be said that the stomach is the basis for most instruction of dogs and other animals. If fish are fed daily as certain strains of music are played, later when these same strains are being played, they will rush toward the source of the music. If bees have been fed on blue paper for a considerable length of time, they will be inclined to light on every blue surface, thinking food is there.

A series of experiments conducted by an old College friend of ours, Dr. Elmer CulIer, then professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, revealed that the dog has about 40% superior hearing to that of the human.

The method used by Dr. CuIIer is interesting as an instance of the workings of the canine mind. One foot of the dog was placed on a metal plate and this plate connected to an electric battery. When a sound was made such as by a bell, the current was connected, resulting in a slight shock to the dog’s paw. Instantly he lifted the paw off the metal platform. After a time, the sounds were diminished in pitch and volume until humans hardly could hear them or at times not at all. The electric discharge was omitted, yet the dog quickly lifted the paw off the metal platform, anticipating what he had often felt before-the unpleasant electric shock at the instant the sound was heard.

The best method of teaching dogs not to be afraid of guns, that is, to cure them of gunshyness, is to fire over them as puppies at the moment they are eating their meal. Then their thoughts are utterly in their stomachs and they have not the time nor the desire to become frightened by the sound of the firing gun.

Pain soon teaches the animal certain things to avoid. Pain is the negative teacher of the animal just as hunger is the positive teacher. One says yes, and the other says no. If an earthworm be confined in a T-glass tube, it may crawl up into either the left or the right arm at the top. However, if one arm, let us say the left arm, is charged with electricity, the earthworm will, upon trying once or twice to crawl into the left arm, turn away from it and thereafter, even tho the current might be removed for some time, will avoid the left and enter the right arm.

The dog is housebroken by the negative method. Punishment is employed to cause him pain in order to avoid his soiling certain quarters. He becomes housebroken not because he knows it is impolite to perform these natural duties in the house, (he never learns this) but because he knows the pain of punishment will be upon him when he does soil in certain places.

However, in the case of the dog, pain, humiliation, and its countermate pride, and also the desire to please the master enter into the principles of pedagogy, the factors which induce the dog to change or practice new conduct.

It must be borne in mind that each kind of animal life has its own separate world as tho it were placed under a glass case and each other kind or species of animal life placed under its respective glass case.

But each species acts according to its environment. We mean by this that different kinds of animal life under the same environment and under the same conditions act differently because each one either thru primary or secondary knowledge, thru instinct or acquired experience, acts differently.

The lesson in this is that the dog looks at the world as a dog. There fore, in training the dog, develop his ability as a dog. As trainer think dog. Do not try to make a human being out of him. Give him dog problems to be solved; do not expect him to solve human problems. Such things as the distinction between colors, opening and closing doors, are human activities and not dog activities.

The success of this book Training the Dog now in its sixth edition, has been due chiefly to the fact that its principles have been based upon the dog’s view of the situation. The author at all times has tried to look at matters both visually and mentally as the dog regards them.