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An electronic Doctor Dolittle gadget that promises to help dog owners understand their pet's emotions and demands has been invented in Japan.
The canine communicator claims to be able to translate barks, growls and whines into common human emotions such as frustration, menace, hunger, joy and sorrow.
The Bow-lingual consists of a 2in microphone that is attached to a dog's collar and transmits sounds to a palm-sized console held by the animal's master. The console has a display that uses a 200-word vocabulary to explain the dog's needs and feelings.
An occurrence of several words indicating the same emotion automatically generates sentences such as "I feel lonely, play with me more".
For dog owners returning home from work, the device can summarise a whole day's worth of dog-speak, such as "lots of enjoyable things happened, a mega happy day".
Roger Mugford, a psychologist who specialises in how animals interact with humans, said the device had a sound scientific basis.
"There are common elements to the speech of every dog. Just as with humans, every dog develops a personal and idiosyncratic speech of its own," he said.
Dogs used at least 16 different basic barks, as well as forms of meta-communication similar to the looks and frowns used by humans.
A loud bark could indicate "who goes there?", a puppy would whimper to its mother begging for food, yelp to show surrender or whine plaintively to ask its owner to give up its favourite toy.
But Dr Mugford said the canine communicator - made by Takara and on sale in Japan next spring for £60 - ought not to be necessary.
"If a dog owner is so uninformed
about his pet that he needs a computer to interpret what it wants, then
he should not be a dog owner," he said.