author of “The Story of San Michele.”.
To become a good dog-doctor it is necessary to love dogs, but it is also necessary to understand them the same as with us, with the difference that it is easier to understand a dog than a man and easier to love him.
Never forget that the mentality of one dog is totally different from that of another. The sharp wit that sparkles in the quick eye of a fox terrier, for instance, reflects a mental activity totally different from the serene wisdom which shines in the calm eye of a St. Bernard or an old sheep-dog.
The intelligence of dogs is proverbial, but there is a great difference of degree, already apparent in the puppies as soon as they open their eyes. There are even stupid dogs, though the percentage is much smaller than in man.
On the whole it is easy to understand the dog and to learn to read his thoughts. The dog cannot dissimulate, cannot deceive, cannot lie because he cannot speak. The dog is saint. He is straightforward and honest by nature. If in exceptional cases there appear in a dog some stigmas of hereditary sin traceable to his wild ancestors, who had to rely on cunning in their fight for existence, these stigmas will disappear when his experience has taught him that he can rely upon straight and just dealings from us.
If these stigmas should remain in a dog who is well treated, these cases are extremely rare, this dog is not normal, he is suffering from moral insanity and should be given a painless death.
A dog admits the superiority of his master over himself, accepts his judgment as final, contrary to what many dog-lovers believe, he does not consider himself as a slave. His submission is voluntary and he expects his own small rights to be respected.
He looks upon his master as his king, almost as his god, he expects him to be just. He knows that his god can read his thoughts and he knows it is no good to try to conceal them. Can he read the thoughts of his god ? most certainly he can. The Society for Psychical Research may say what they like, but telepathy between man and man has so far not been proved. But telepathy between dog and man has been proved over and over again. The dog can read his masters thoughts, can understand his varying moods, and foretell his decisions.
He knows by instinct when he is not wanted, lies still for hours when his kind is hard at work, as kings often are, or at least ought to be. But when his king is sad and worried, he knows that his time has come and he creeps up and lays his head on his lap. Dont worry ! Never mind if they all abandon you, I am here to replace all your friends and to fight all your enemies ! Come along and let us go for a walk and forget all about it!.
It is strange and very pathetic to watch the behaviour of a dog when his master is ill. The dog warned by his infallible instinct is afraid of disease, afraid of death. A dog accustomed for years to sleep on his masters bed is reluctant to remain there when his master is ill.
Even in the rare exceptions to this rule, he leaves his master at the approach of death, hiding in a corner of the room and whining pitifully. It has even happened to me to be warned by the behaviour of a dog of the approach of death. What does he know about death? At least as much as we do, probably a good deal more.
A dog can be taught to do almost anything with friendly encouragement, patience and a biscuit when he has learned his lesson with right good will. Never lose your temper or use violence of any sort. Corporal punishment inflicted on an intelligent dog is an indignity which reflects upon his master.
It is besides a psychological error. This being said, let me add that naughty puppies as well as very small children before the age of reason, but not after, are quite welcome to a little spanking now and then when too recalcitant to learn the fundamental rules of good manners.
When a dog is ill, he will submit to almost anything, even a painful operation, if it is explained to him in a kind but firm voice that it must be done and why it must be done. Never coax sick dog to eat, he often does so only to oblige you, even if his instinct warns him to abstain from food, which is as often as not his salivation. Dont worry. Dogs like very small children can be without food for several days without further inconvenience.
A dog can stand pain with great courage, but,of course, he likes you to tell him how sorry you are of him. Maybe it will be a comfort to some dog-lovers to be told that I do believe that on the whole their sensitiveness to pain is less acute than we think. Never disturb a sick dog when not absolutely necessary. As often as not, your untimely interference only distracts nature in her effort to assist him to get well.
All animals wish to be left alone when they are ill and also when they are about to die. Alas ! the life of a dog is so short and there are none of us who have not been in mourning for a lost friend. Your first impulse and your first words after you have laid him to rest under a tree in the park, are that you never, never wish to have another dog; no other dog could ever be to you what he has been.
You are mistaken. It is not a dog we love, it is the dog. They are all more or less the same, they are all ready to love you and be loved by you. They are all representatives of the most lovable and, morally speaking, most perfect creation of God.