Meet Chaser: The incredible border collie who has learned the names for 1022 toys
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
Last updated at 7:52 AM on 23rd December 2010
Dog owners like to think that their pets understand what they’re being told.
Indeed, some owners will talk to their dogs at great length while the animal gazes back at them with what is probably a mixture of affection and bewilderment.
However, there is one dog who appears to understand a great deal of what is being said.
Chaser the border collie knows over 1,000 words – more than any other animal.
Border collie Chaser has, according to psychologists Alliston Reid and John Pilley, managed to learn more than 1,000 words.
Their findings could mean that all those conversations with our pets aren’t entirely wasted.
Professor Reid and Dr Pilley worked intensively with six-year-old Chaser for three years to see how large a vocabulary she could command.
They made up names for 1,022 toys, including frisbees, balls and stuffed animals, and found she was able to learn and remember them all.
Chaser, owned by Dr Pilley, was also able to sort them according to function and shape, something children learn at around three.
Professor Reid said: ‘We wanted to see if there was a limit to the number of words a dog could understand, and if they could understand the name of an object rather than just respond to a command related to an object, such as fetch.
‘We worked with Chaser for four to five hours each day testing her on the words over and over again and were able to establish that she could remember and distinguish between them all. We’re not saying this means dogs can learn language in the same way children do, but it does show they are capable of learning many more words than might have been thought.’
The research at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, involved introducing Chaser to the toys one by one and then repeating the name to reinforce the association. She was also regularly tested on her entire vocabulary.
Groups of 20 toys were chosen at random and Chaser had to retrieve them by name.
She completed 838 of these tests over the three years and never got less than 18 out of 20 right, according to the findings published in the New Scientist magazine.
Chaser was also taught to combine three different commands with the toys – ‘paw’ (move it with your paw), ‘nose’ (push it with your nose’), and ‘bring’.
Beverley Cuddy, editor of Dogs Today magazine, said: ‘It’s very inspiring. Many owners think their dogs are capable of understanding a lot more than they might feel comfortable with letting on about and now science seems to be saying they’re not mad to think so.’
In 2004 it was claimed border collie Rico, aged nine from Leipzig in Germany, knew 200 words.