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Posts Tagged ‘dogs’

Okay, I knew the Nazis were into all sorts of pseudoscience in pursuit of their crazy theories (and just to keep Schiklgruber happy) , but setting up a research institute to teach them to speak (real words, not “arf!”), read, and even read minds?

Science!

The dog school was called the Tier-Sprechschule ASRA and was based near Hanover. Led by headmistress Margarethe Schmitt, it was set up in the 1930s and continued throughout the war years.

Rolf, an Airedale terrier, reportedly ‘spoke’ by tapping his paw against a board, each letter of the alphabet being represented by a certain number of taps. He was said to have speculated about religion, learnt foreign languages, written poetry and asked a visiting noblewoman: ‘Could you wag your tail?’

The patriotic dog even expressed a wish to join the army – because he disliked the French.

A Dachshund named Kurwenal was said to speak using a different number of barks for each letter, and told his biographer he would be voting for Hindenburg.

And a German pointer named Don imitated a human voice to bark: ‘Hungry! Give me cakes.’

Dr Bondeson, whose book Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet Of Canine Curiosities is out now, said: ‘It is absolutely extraordinary stuff.

‘There were some very strange experiments going on in wartime Germany, with regard to dog-human communication.’

That last, I think, qualifies as an understatement.

Of course, it would explain that air of dictatorial authority our dogs exhibited whenever they wanted a cookie. Hmmm…

And while this is yet another example of a what a bunch of fruitcakes the Nazis were*, it’s also marvelous material for a “weird alternate history” roleplaying game. Not that I’ve ever considered such a thing

Click through for more Nazi weirdness.

*Albeit, armed, sociopathic, and extremely dangerous fruitcakes.

h/t Moe Lane

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The Wizard of Dogs

This is cute. 🙂

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I’m a lifelong dog-lover, and I’ve always felt they were much more intelligent than our “dumb dog” jokes make them out to be. In fact, we used to say around the house that, while our dogs couldn’t talk, they certainly knew how to communicate.

Anyway, Time Magazine has a really neat article on investigations into the evolution of canine intelligence. The whole piece is worth reading, but this especially caught my eye:

To understand how dogs evolved this skill, Hare traveled to Siberia. In the 1950s, Soviet scientists set up an experiment on a farm outside the city of Novosibirsk to understand how animals were domesticated. They decided to study foxes, which are closely related to wolves and dogs.

The Russians began by breeding a group of foxes according to one simple rule: they would walk up to a cage and put a hand on the bars. Foxes that slunk back in fear and snapped their teeth didn’t get to breed. Ones that came up to the scientists did. Meanwhile, the scientists also raised a separate group of foxes under identical conditions, except for one difference: they didn’t have to pass a test to mate.

More than 40 generations of foxes have now been bred in Novosibirsk, and the results speak for themselves. The foxes that the scientists bred selectively have become remarkably doglike. They will affectionately run up to people and even wag their tails. In 2003, Hare traveled to Novosibirsk and ran his pointing test on baby foxes. The ordinary ones failed miserably. As for the doglike ones, “they did just as well as puppies right out of the box,” Hare says. As the animals were bred for their affability, a new side of their social intelligence was apparently awakened.

The article also argues something I’ve long suspected: they train us nearly as much as we train them. 🙂

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