SPEAK, ROLF, SPEAK!
The German interest in animal intelligence began long before the Nazis however. Early in the 20th Century, a research institute near Munich conducted studies on human-animal communication. They devised various experiments to confirm canine intelligence, including the possibility of mental telepathy between humans and dogs. Many animal psychologists were convinced that dogs were capable of abstract thinking.
Hitler became aware of the Hundesprechschule and asked Margarethe Schmidt to demonstrate her dogs’ talents for the German military. The show apparently was impressive, and Hitler ordered the S.S. to investigate the potential for training talking dogs to be used in the field. There is no question that the S.S. was looking for military applications.
A 2011 book by scientist and author Jan Bondeson, called “Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet of Canine Curiosities,” includes an in depth examination into the subject of Nazi dog training. In it, Bondeson says, “I’m sure the Nazi generation of animal psychologists genuinely thought they’d tapped into a hidden innate intelligence within many animals. It’s very easy but entirely wrong to mock their findings, as the film footage appears extremely compelling.”
So seriously, why were the Nazis unable to get the canines to talk? First, dogs’ vocal mechanisms are not suited for producing human speech. The biology is all wrong. But more importantly, the perception of canine intelligence may be an illusion, or at least over rated. It’s an easy thing to misinterpret. Dogs are overly eager animals that try very hard to please their masters; and we, deep down, want to believe that they understand us and can communicate with us on a level higher than they actually can. Even today, researchers try to teach sign language to chimps with some success but, while they may comprehend meaning, these primates are not able to use language with proper structure.
“Talking dogs - a strange find;
what goes through the canine mind?
Largely surveillance was the way to go.
Single syllable words to talk,
training courses the dogs would walk;
then encouraged to tell what they did know.”
It appears that even though Nazi scientists may have tried to create an army of talking, machine-gun carrying dogs, they failed to do so. It was just one more legend from World War II. There was no “Furred Reich.”