27 October 2016

BEHAVIOUR - Have Humans Underestimated Animals' Intelligence?

A border collie named Chaser is causing scientists, dog trainers, and just about everyone really, to rethink just how smart dogs are.

Raised and trained by John Pilley, an emeritus professor of psychology at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Chaser knows the names of over 1,000 objects.

She also has the ability to discriminate verbs, such as fetch frisbee, paw frisbee, or nose frisbee, and to understand the syntax in sentences: “to ball take Frisbee” is different from “to Frisbee take ball.”

Pilley is a firm believer in the power of play in successful training - everything Chase has learned is through play.

His research partner since she was two months old and currently 12 years of age, Chase is first and foremost a member of the Pilley family.

Pilley began his work with the remarkable border collie after his retirement and the energetic octogenarian has written a book - Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words.

The book explores the true potential of animal intelligence and the ways in which any dog lover can achieve similar results.

A major point Pilley focuses on in the book and every interview, is that every dog has significant potential and intelligence, not just Chaser.

“The big thing is that Chaser is not special, and that anybody’s dog is smarter than he or she thinks. I’m hoping people will work with their dogs, of course teaching them words, but also getting to know their dogs. Find out what makes your dog happy, and give your dog opportunities to explore its interests,” Pilley told Scientific American.

Want some visuals? Through a series of videos produced by Hill’s Science Diet and featuring Pilley and his border collie, viewers can get a clear idea of just how to teach a dog 1,000 words.

For Pilley and his pup, it’s all about understanding, play, setting the dog up for success, and the incredible human animal bond.

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