As ethical dilemmas go, teaching your dog a trick that would get humans into trouble is worth a good head-scratch. A man in Germany has been sentenced to five months imprisonment for teaching his pet part-Alsatian mongrel to perform the Nazi salute in response to the words, “Heil Hitler!” In Germany, the Nazi salute and any other display of Nazi symbols are absolutely verboten.
The fact that the law doesn’t quite spell out what should happen to the owner of a dog who knows the Nazi salute leads to the question whether a dog that ‘Nazi-salutes’ can be confirmed as a Nazi symbol. After all, even Hitler’s favourite Alsatian Blondi couldn’t flick out her paw smartly or do the less stressful canine activity of goose-stepping.
And it’s not as if Adolf (the Nazi-saluting dog as opposed to the Nazi leader) had been caught with a swastika marked on its body — as was the case with a dog in another German town whose owner had shaved his pet’s fur to display a swastika and the insignia of Hitler’s elite Waffen-SS troops.
Which brings us to the question of whether the owner of the Nazi-saluting dog is as guilty as the owner of, say, a parrot taught to utter racist remarks. We tend to think not, as the vision of the ‘Heil-ing’ dog is comic, while the parrot is made to articulate bigoted views that are not funny at all. But Adolf the dog is now looking for a new owner who will hopefully be able to convince people that what seems to be a Nazi gesture is really a Roman salute. He or she will have to find a new catchphrase (how about ‘Ave Caesar!’?) Oh, and Adolf is to be renamed Adi.