The CIA's Secret Mind-Control Project Included Successfully Creating Remote-Controlled Dogs


Katy Evans

Katy is Managing Editor at IFLScience where she oversees editorial content from News articles to Features, and even occasionally writes some.

Managing Editor

K9, the world's first robodog and faithful Dr Who companion. Sadly, the dogs in this experiment were real. YouTube

Pretty much everything about Project MKUltra, the CIA’s foray into mind-control experiments during the Cold War, sounds like a conspiracy theory or just made up. Separating fact from fiction can be tough. While experiments that looked into psychokinesis, telepathy, and remote viewing (carried out by the US Army as part of Project Stargate) were a bust, the whole mind-control thing, that was very real.

We know, thanks to declassified reports released in the 1970s and through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that MKUltra was a scarily real program that took place in the ‘50s and ‘60s, designed to look into biological and psychological warfare – yep, mind control, brainwashing, and reprogramming – in an attempt to gain advantage over the Soviet Union and China.


What we didn’t know, until now, was that it wasn’t just in the human guinea pigs that they had an ethically dubious but technically successful outcome. Documents provided by an FOIA request have revealed that they also managed to successfully create operational remote-control dogs.

No not robots, real dogs.

As first reported by Newsweek, the documents were provided under an FOIA request by John Greenwald, founder of the site The Black Vault, which specializes in declassified government records.

A letter, dated September 28, 1967, written by someone who had already been working on electrical stimulation in the brain and animal behavior is responding to a request for advice apparently about setting up a laboratory to experiment on animal mind control. Both names have been redacted.

The sender and recipient of the letter have both been redacted. CIA

“As you know, I spent about three years working in the research area of rewarding electrical stimulation of the brain,” the sender writes. “In the laboratory, we performed a number of experiments with rats; in the open field, we employed dogs of several breeds.”

They wrote that in addition to writing several papers about the “elucidated nature of brain-stimulation rewards”, they also successfully demonstrated a “procedure for controlling the free-field behaviors of an unrestrained dog.”

Accompanying the letter is proof, a report titled “Remote Control Behavior with Rewarding Electrical Stimulation of the Brain,” published in 1965. Its goal is pretty clear.

“The specific aim of the research program was to examine the possibility of controlling the behavior of a dog, in an open field, by means of remotely triggering electrical stimulation of the brain,” the report begins.

The dogs were directed to hit certain markers in a field by electrical stimulations in the brain that directed them forward and which way to turn. CIA 

The report includes some pretty gruesome-sounding specifics, such as after trying out – unsuccessfully – plastic helmets for the dogs, they decided on a much more direct surgery by “embedding the electrode entirely within a mound of dental cement on the skull and running the leads subcutaneously to a point between the shoulder blades, where the leads are brought to the surface and affixed to a standard dog harness.”

A battery pack and stimulator were attached to the harness, which sent signals such as run, turn, or stop to the electrodes in the brain.

From the report, “Remote Control Behavior with Rewarding Electrical Stimulation of the Brain”. CIA 

Listing the possible uses for remote-controlled dogs included carrying ammunition and messages in dangerous terrain, being used as a "guided missile" to be detonated from a distance, and as a scout. 

They had some success, as the letter writer explains, “Behavioral control was limited to distances of 100 to 200 yards, at most.” Though it seems their remote-control dogs were never actually used in field operations. Issues ran from not being able to find a suitable-sized field to explore their experiment to infections and wounds in the dogs where the surgery had been performed.


That doesn’t stop the writer from being excited about possible future exploration of other suitable species. They suggest rats, and other declassified papers have suggested attempts at cats (we can imagine how that went).

Is anyone else thinking about Jurassic World and the nefarious attempt to weaponize the raptors, and the potential for it all to go so horribly wrong, or is that just me?

[H/T: Newsweek]


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