How would you like to talk to your dog, cat, horse, or other non-human companion? I mean really talk, not just communicate in the vague or limited way that we do now? I’d love to have a conversation with my own pets, but even more exciting is the thought that I might someday be able to get critical information from my patients. Imagine what a veterinary visit would be like if the doctor could ask, “How do you feel?”

If you’re intrigued by a Dr. Doolittle-like future, check out the following:

So I think we have the technology now to be able to develop the devices that are, say, the size of a cellphone, that would allow us to talk to our dogs and cats. So the dog says "bark!" and the device analyzes it and says, "I want to eat chicken tonight." Or the cat can say "meow," and it can say, "You haven't cleaned my litterbox recently."

[Consider that] something like 4 million dogs are euthanized every year because of behavioral problems. Well, most problems are because of the lack of communication between animal and human. The human can't get across to the animal what the human expects, and the animal can't get across to the human what it's experiencing. And if we had a chance to talk back and forth, the dog could say, "You're scaring me." And you could say, "Well, I'm sorry, I didn't realize that I was scaring you. I'll give you more space."

What I'm hoping, actually, is that down the road, we will be forming partnerships with animals, rather than exploiting animals. A lot of people either exploit animals, or they're afraid of animals, or they have nothing to do with animals because they don't think that animals have anything to contribute to their lives. And once people get to the point where they can start talking to animals, I think they'll realize that animals are living, breathing, thinking beings, and that they have a lot to contribute to people's lives.

That’s just a short excerpt from an interview with Con Slobodchikoff, professor emeritus at Northern Arizona University, which was published in The Atlantic earlier this month. The article is fascinating, and rather long, so I’m going to stop writing now so you all have time to check it out in its entirety.

Let me know what you think.

Dr. Jennifer Coates


Animal Behaviorist: We'll Soon Have Devices That Let Us Talk With Our Pets. Megan Garberj. June 4, 2013.

Image: Mike Baird / via Flickr