Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The Master and His Human

November 25, 2002

Some smart humans with pleasant scents and a largely incomprehensible vocabulary have determined that over thousands of years their species, through domestication and interaction, changed the genetics of what would become canines. The scientists, who have only two legs, just reported their serious findings in the journal Science. They believe that humans changed wolves -- rescuing them from a cold forest life of surviving paw to mouth -- by bringing these canny creatures into the warmth of a house as domesticated dogs with their own toys, soft beds and biscuit treats they needn't share.

The Science research suggests it was humans' idea to serve meat in a bowl to former wolves who once had to chase dinner. Now, this retired wildlife sleeps around the house whenever it wants. The scientists say dogs have learned to read human looks, gestures and sounds; even puppies know how to do this from birth.

We can report exclusively here that this news -- considered hilarious in dogdom -- is traversing the globe through bouts of coded barking from one backyard to another. Although dog dialects and accents differ by region, the rough translation of these canine messages is: "It's still working perfectly. They think they're training us!"

Humans' uncanny ability to learn from dogs was, like many important advances, discovered by accident. Legend says that thousands of years ago a portly dog seeking a workout one cold morning delivered a stick to an idle human. Instantly, the human knew the trick. He tossed the stick away. The dog brought it back. The human threw it away. Again and again. Even when the dog fetched a different stick, the human knew to toss it.

Since then, other animals have deciphered human learning patterns. Even illiterate ducks have successfully trained humans frequenting parks. The ducks walk up, ask for bread and tilt their heads, waiting. Well-trained humans know to stop and drop large quantities of bread crumbs.

Training humans requires time -- and patience. Sure, all it took was little puppy licks for humans to learn baby talk. But generations of whimpering passed before humans finally began cloaking cold floors in carpets. Humans encountering each other still don't get the sniffing protocol. And despite centuries of example by all breeds during morning and evening walks, humans still haven't learned where to do their business, though most know now to clean up after the dog.

A growing cadre of conservative canines holds that humans, though adorable when children, are stubborn and quite simply untrainable as adults. According to this orthodox interpretation of the stick-tossing legend, the dog who discovered humans' apparent capacity for learning was not seeking exercise. He was cold in the cave and intended the stick for the fire.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|