Home > Dogs > Dog knows names for 1,022 items | Seattle Times Newspaper

Dog knows names for 1,022 items | Seattle Times Newspaper

Living | Dog knows names for 1,022 items | Seattle Times Newspaper.

The article above is about a South Carolina dog named Chaser, a female border collie.  Chaser’s owner, John Pilley, is a psychologist who got intrigued with what a dog could understand of human language.  Some years before he came across news of a border collie in Germany who was taught to recognize 200 items by name.  Pilley wondered if the dog’s understanding of language had any connection to our own understanding.

To that end Chaser was taught 1,022 proper nouns.  This number is not the known limit of Chaser’s vocabulary. It’s simply that Chaser’s owner just got tired of teaching nouns, and he moved on to grammar and verbs.  By the end of the training Chaser learned to paw, fetch, and nose an object.  The most interesting aspect is that she also could pick out an object not in her vocabulary if it was among items she did know.

But is she truly using vocabulary?  It’s been shown before that border collies and other animals pick up on subtle cues from their owners in order to arrive at a “right” answer.

John Pilley worked to overcome many of these problems by sending Chaser to retrieve items in another room so that his signals would not affect the dog’s choices.  But still, there is doubt that what Chaser is doing even reflects what a human child does.  The dog, some say, learned by brute repetition.  The true miracle is that an owner had the patience to teach her.

I’m of the opinion that all animals have their own forms of communication.  Like in the link I gave to the podcast discussing animal communication and how it’s more complicated and articulate than we ever imagined, dogs do have the ability to communicate across species.

Think of that the next time you pick up your dog’s leash because you just know they’ve got to do their business.

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