Even the best speakers at the recent American Psychological Association’s annual meeting were upstaged by a four-legged research subject. When Chaser, a 7-year-old Border collie walked into the room, people jockeyed for position so they could photograph the celebrity.
Border collies are at the top of canine intelligence charts. What sets Chaser apart is that she has learned to identify more than 1,000 objects and distinguish between nouns and verbs.
Her trainer, John Pilley, has posted videos of Chaserís remarkable abilities on a YouTube Channel. In these clips from New Scientist, she responds to voice commands, correctly identifying both objects and actions.
Chaserís vocabulary is the largest recorded for a canine. Over a period of three years she was taught one object at a time, with regular reviews, until she could correctly identify them. According to New Scientist, she never got less than 18 out of 20 right.
This smart dogís accomplishments are, of course, only part of the story. They give us a glimpse into her ability to figure out what humans are trying to communicate. The other side of the equation remains a puzzle, with many pieces still missing. The more we learn about the capacities of non-humans, the more we realize how much we still do not know.
Photo from Corrado Dearca via Flickr Creative Commons