Features In The Character Of A Dog

[June 10, 1876.]

For some time past I have noticed in your journal letters and articles

referring to the wonderful powers of dogs. As I was myself much struck

by many features in the character of a dog which I knew, illustrating,

as I think, not only affection, but reasoning faculties, I shall

acquaint you with a few of these, believing that they may be

interesting, at least to all admirers of that noble

The dog of which I speak was a terrier. It showed its affection in the

most marked manner in several ways. Every morning, as soon as it got out

of the kitchen, it came to its master's door, and if not admitted and

caressed about the usual hour, gave evident signs of impatience. It

would lie quiet till it thought the time had arrived, but never longer.

Afterwards it went to the breakfast-room, and occupied its master's

chair till he arrived. On one occasion a visitor was in the house, who,

coming first into the room, ordered the dog to come off the best chair.

To this it paid no attention, and when threatened with expulsion, at

once prepared for defence. But as soon as its master appeared it

resigned its place voluntarily, and quietly stretched itself on the rug

at his feet.

At another time it was left for three weeks during its master's absence

from home. It saw him leave in a steamer, and every day until his return

it repaired to the quay upon the arrival of the same boat, expecting him

to come again in the one by which he had gone. It distinguished between

a number of boats, always selecting the right one and the right hour.

One evening it accompanied its master when he went to gather mussels for

bait. As the tide was far in, few mussels remained uncovered; and after

collecting all within reach, more were required. A large bunch lay a few

feet from the water's edge, but beyond reach; yet as the dog was not one

of those who take the water to fetch, its master had no expectation that

it would prove useful on the present occasion. Seeing him looking at

the mussels, however, it first took a good look at those in the basket,

and then, without being directed at all, went into the water. Selecting

the right bunch from amongst the stones and wreck with which it was

surrounded, it brought it to land, and laid it at its master's feet.

This, I think, is a proof of reason, rather than of instinct. The dog

had never been trained to go into the sea, and would not probably have

brought out the mussels had it not seen that they were wanted.

It showed wonderful instinct, however, just before the death of one of

its pups, and before its own death. Its pup had not been thriving, and

the mother gave unmistakable proof that she foresaw its death. She dug a

grave for it and put it in. Nor, when it was removed, would she let it

lie beside her, but immediately dug another grave, where she was less

likely to be disturbed. Upon the day of her own death, also, she used

what strength she had to dig her grave, in which she lay, preferring to

die in it, than in what would seem to most a place of greater


These may not be singular incidents, but they are still remarkable and

worthy of notice. They serve to show us the wonderful nature of man's

faithful friend, the dog, and how he has many traits of character fitted

to make him the worthy receiver of kindness and respect.


[Footnote 1: It is difficult to accept T.'s explanation of the dog's

object in digging. Possibly its aim was to obtain warmth or shelter.]