Mental Abilities of Dogs

It is not unreasonable to believe that animals within their kind communicate somewhat to one another. But for a horse to communicate his thoughts to an elephant is not done so far as we know. The nearest approach to intelligent communication between two different species is that between man and dog.

The human race has progressed solely on the basis of ability first to understand ideas, then to communicate them to other humans, who in turn understand them as completely as does the giver. This has been chiefly by words either spoken or written.

The eye, the mouth, the voice, the bearing of the body and the tail are the means of communication used by the dog. There is nothing in this world more expressive than a dog’s tail except a woman’s smile. The dog is the only animal that talks at both ends.

The voice of the dog has a dozen inflections. The master can tell by the bark or whine of his dog whether the sound is one of joy or pain, of pleading or fighting, of fear or play, one of warning or of mere pleasure in barking. No other animal has as many changes, inflections or tones of vocal expression; and no other animal desires so anxiously to talk as does the dog. All the physical necessities such as larynx, vocal chord and tongue are possessed by the dog, but the one thing lacking is modulation of the sounds into words. These vocal variations would not be possible without a vocal center in the brain.

The dog is a strongly social animal: he likes to be with his own kind and with his master and master’s family. This strong desire has helped to develop his ability to communicate his thoughts.

The advancement of the dog in mentality hinges upon ability to communicate thoughts. The human race long ago was unable to communicate thots by speech and had it remained so, today it were still as is the dog in mind. But man’s noises and throat sounds were labeled into an alphabet and then systematized into words; thus language began. Did all the world of people become mute and unable to read, within a hundred years it would sink to the same level the dog now occupies; it would try by barks and leaps and tongue-licking, as eagerly to communicate its thots as does the dog today.

The human infant does not talk of its own accord. It must be taught to express itself in words. Without this teaching, it would grow up into a mere babbling creature.

In time, it may be possible to develop speech in dogs. The most apt dogs could be trained; their puppies brought up with them could learn much by imitation; gradual inflections could be developed; and after many generations the dog might be able to speak with human speech. And with the ability to speak would come, just as it does with humans, the ability to reason.

The subject of training the dog, therefore, begins and ends with the basic consideration that whereas a human is trained almost entirely by speech and its frozen cousin, the printed word, the training of dogs must be done by an appeal to the dog’s mind thru his physical senses, chiefly hearing and seeing.

The author has carried on an interesting correspondence with Inez B. Scott. Bolton, Mass. on the possibility of training dogs to talk in words. We heard the widely-publicized “‘talking dog,” the French bulldog Princess Jacqueline but only disappointment followed in our mind. Certain breeds of twisted nasal passages and short neck utter strange yawning sounds and the owner of Princess cleverly announced the somewhat similar English words, such as a long-drawn-out “mammm-mma for mama. We quote from one of Miss Scott’s letters (her dogs are cocker spaniels):

“I heard the frenchie (Princess) talk and realized her squeaky voice was difficult to understand. It happens our dogs talk in full, deep voices, altho their tones and themselves are all different. Some speak quickly, others with pauses, and our youngest, Seal, almost drawls like a southerner, but pronounces his words in true northern manner.

“One brown cocker invariably says ‘mow-er’ for more. If we hold her in our arms, she will say: ‘Wanna ge’ down’ and lean down ready to jump. They are all mighty interesting but of course not perfectly trained yet. Three of the five puppies can be at understood to say, ‘Ha-wo’ for hello and ‘Ah wan m-more’ and they are just three months old. They offer a paw, saying ‘hello.’

“They enunciate as best they can certain words and ALWAYS use the correct word for the right idea. If I try to bribe my dogs, with a tid-bit, into saying ‘Hello’ they Ioolt at the meat and say. ‘Ah wan’ more.’ “