Chaser is the proverbial old dog who can learn new tricks. In fact, this nine-year-old border collie continues to acquire knowledge at a rate that boggles human minds: To date, she has learned the names of more than a thousand objects, thus establishing herself as the accomplished language learner of any nonhuman animal. In fact, in addition to mastering that staggering vocabulary, she knows nouns, verbs, and prepositions and can comprehend these grammatical elements together in a sentence. In this book, her owner, retired psychologist John W. Piley, Jr. describes his pet's remarkable achievements and explains why their significance far transcends their Guinness World Record status. An apt gift for dog owners who are sometimes awed by the intelligence of their pets.
Retired psychology professor Pilley’s work with his border collie, Chaser, since 2004 is impressive, and his findings have been published in the journal Behavioural Processes. Challenging the bounds of animal knowledge, Chaser has “learned and retained the proper noun names of 1,022 objects over a period of three years”; the dog remembers more words than any other (nonhuman) animal known. Her achievements have made her a national celebrity, and she’s made appearances on the Today show and ABC News. Here, Pilley (and coauthor Hinzmann) effectively describes his family’s relationship with Chaser and the theory behind how she was taught such a large vocabulary. His findings have broader implications: the coauthors link the teaching methods developed for Chaser to the controversy about “teaching to the test” for children. Though there are occasional hiccups in the book, such as Pilley’s effusiveness regarding his meeting with news anchor Diane Sawyer, Chaser’s remarkable abilities speak for themselves. One 8-page b&w insert. Agent: Steve Ross, Abrams Artist Agency. (Oct.)
"Chaser is the most scientifically important dog in over a century. Her fascinating story reveals just how sophisticated a dog’s mind can be." —Brian Hare, coauthor of The Genius of Dogs "After you read Chaser, you will realize that you may have underestimated the intelligence of your dog. Marvelous insights into a dog’s mind." —Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human "This is an extraordinary book, full of warmth and wisdom that has the potential to forever change the way we look at dogs. While Chaser herself seems extraordinary, maybe she is also every dog, in showing us what every dog is capable of. Maybe not every dog can learn over a thousand words, but every dog I have ever known can read our heart, and that, to me, is the great secret between dogs and humans that we are just now learning, and which is so deeply evident in this wonderful book: Chaser loves people, and because of that love she will do anything asked of her, even learn the names of one thousand toys! Dr. John Pilley’s work with Chaser is not only a loving affirmation for readers who already know how much they adore and trust the ability of dogs, but is also a game-changer for skeptical scientists, who must find themselves, after reading this remarkable book, inching closer to recognizing the full humanity of dogs." —Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, author of When Elephants Weep and Dogs Never Lie About Love "A Border Collie that understands lots of words won’t surprise people who work with these inventive dogs, but what makes John Pilley’s tale special is his dogged determination, long after his retirement from teaching psychology, to keep his own brain fizzing with all the new words and techniques and ideas he needs to learn to get his results published in a respected science journal." —Bruce Fogle, author of The Dog’s Mind and The Encyclopedia of Dogs "If a truly great book leaves one better for having read it, then Chaseris quite simply a masterpiece. Dogs and those of us who love them owe to debt of gratitude to the brilliant, courageous author and his equally heroic subject." —Jennifer Arnold, author of Through a Dog’s Eyes"In the age old war between cats and dogs, canines might have just struck the killer blow." —Jessica Griggs, New Scientist "An engrossing and remarkable tale." —The Bark "A delightful memoir that offers a challenge to behavioral psychologists and inspiration for pet lovers."—Kirkus Reviews "This marvelous blend of good science and heartwarming dog story will inspire all of us to reexamine our canine friends."—Booklist, *starred* review
Many dog owners think their own pet is smart, but get ready to meet an energetic and truly intelligent border collie, Chaser. Pilley (psychology, emeritus, Wofford Coll.) shares a remarkable story of his family dog, who over a period of three years learned to recognize and fetch more than 1,000 objects by name and eventually was even taught the meaning of different types of words such as verbs and prepositions. Pilley conducted other experiments and concluded that Chaser has two cognitive abilities: memory storage and working memory. Pilley's findings were published in a scholarly journal, and Chaser has appeared on the Today Show and CBS Evening News and was featured in a NOVA Science Now episode on animal intelligence along with Alex, Irene Pepperberg's fascinating parrot. While the author focuses on Chaser's intelligence, he writes charmingly about fun, loyalty, and the friendship that an older man and his companion dog share. VERDICT Along with Pepperberg's Alex & Me, Chaser's remarkable story adds to our evolving understanding of how animals learn and is recommended for dog and animal intelligence collections.—Eva Lautemann, formerly with Georgia Perimeter Coll. Lib., Clarkston
The remarkable story of how a border collie achieved a mastery of human language on a par with chimpanzees and dolphins. In 2004, Pilley (Emeritus, Psychology/Wofford Univ.) was bored with retirement and welcomed the challenge of beginning a new research project. When his wife brought a puppy home, the author wondered to what extent he could teach her the meanings of words. With plenty of time now that he was retired, he spent hours playing with Chaser. As they arose, Pilley used every opportunity to verbalize so that Chaser would associate her own actions with words--e.g., saying the word "out" as he gently removed a toy from her mouth during a game of fetch and then praising her enthusiastically when she dropped the toy after hearing the word again. Over time, Chaser accumulated a wide variety of toys, each of which was given a name. Ultimately, she learned to identify more than 1,000 and fetch them from a box containing other toys or search for them when they were hidden. Further, Chaser began to understand when her owner pointed to a new toy and said its name. She was also able to infer that an unfamiliar name referred to a new toy and, when it was the only unfamiliar item in the box, identify a new toy by a name she had never heard before. Opposing the conventional belief held by dog trainers and behavioral psychologists, Pilley is convinced that dogs are not merely conditioned to respond to rewards or avoid punishment, but "can feel and express emotions and can reason." A few years ago, the author's research was featured in academic journals, picked up by the press and featured on TV. These days, he and Chaser are working on complex sentences. A delightful memoir that offers a challenge to behavioral psychologists and inspiration for pet lovers.