Did the Nazis Try to Develop Talking Dogs?

When we look back on the conspiracies of war time they can be strange, and at times even fantastic.  But very rarely are there so many different elements mixing together in such a bizarre and some would say terrifying way.  In Wold War II, the Nazis actually decided to build up a school to teach dogs how to speak.  And the plan only got stranger.

Thanks to a recent discovery by Jan Bondeson of Cardiff University, an obscure German periodical revealed a long lost chapter in the history of World War II.  The Germans had actually started training dogs to not only communicate verbally, but be able to read as well.  The idea was one that has been emulated in science fiction literature for years afterward, but little information about the origins of the idea had been available until now.  And after the plans o the Nazis motivating them to teach the dogs how to read and speak, the idea was so profoundly ambitious -some would say foolhardy- it would have surely been an embarrassment if it had ever become official.  And it appears that’s precisely what has happened now.

The dogs were to be trained to speak and converse with the SS and even read signs and letters as though they were humans.  While the dogs may not have possessed the intelligence of a typical human, it was considered highly developed enough to understand symbols and then eventually language.  Of course today we know that dogs cannot read because of the structure of their brains more than their size.  And yet this can’t be said without the understanding that in ten or thirty years it’s possible it could be proven wrong.  A talking dog on the other hand, is not likely to happen any time soon according to scientists  mapping both the brain functions and vocal functions of dogs.

But then if that’s the case, surely no one took the idea seriously, right?  Perhaps this was just one strange program that just leaked through and made everyone look bad so it was shortly thereafter forgotten.  It’s possible the whole thing might have been nothing more than just a simple exploration that was soon abandoned, right?  Actually, no.  The programs, according to the newspaper reports unearthed by Bondeson, had several different veterinarians who were under the impression that long-term research into the matter of animal speech patterns would prove fruitful.  And so after years of study there’s no telling how serious the tests became.

And before the idea of a future of talking animals is dismissed entirely, it should be noted that long after the trials of World War II there was still more research into the topic by scientists around the world, including by Dr. Irene Pepperberg, who would eventually uncover evidence that astonished those involved.  According to the evidence gathered, Parrots were able to not only respond to words and their meanings, but could respond in context as well.  This research led Dr. Pepperberg on a long search for the truth behind just how capable the minds of animals were.