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Dog Gets Grammar? Chaser The Border Collie Knows Nouns, Verbs & Prepositions, Study Shows (VIDEO)

Offbeat  (tags: Chaser, Border Collie, understands sentences, gets grammar, knows 1, 000 words, Dr. Pilley, canine intelligence, mental abilities, intuition, learning )

- 1791 days ago -
Chaser, a 9-year-old border collie that gained fame for understanding more than 1,000 English words, now has shown that she can understand sentences. Not just two-word sentences, but sentences containing a a prepositional object, verb, and direct object.

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Dan H (0)
Friday May 24, 2013, 10:59 pm
I'm amazed and impressed. Of course, almost everything about dogs is amazing and impressive... but this is very interesting. Great article. I'm waiting now to read a comment posted by one of these "Super Dogs."

Andrew J. (0)
Friday May 24, 2013, 11:03 pm
I'm just hoping there are no dogs checking my grammar! This was a great read... I'm sharing it on Facebook and Google+

Past Member (0)
Friday May 24, 2013, 11:10 pm
Wonderful post,shared--ty

Christeen A (370)
Saturday May 25, 2013, 2:16 am
A different type of learning that's for sure.

Russell R (87)
Saturday May 25, 2013, 5:28 am
To camera - Put in can! Good Girl!

Carlene D (239)
Saturday May 25, 2013, 5:53 am
Nice thanks. Noted

Kay F (550)
Saturday May 25, 2013, 11:02 am
What a smart girl! Thanks Julia.

Helen Porter (39)
Saturday May 25, 2013, 7:27 pm
I have only one comment.

Animals should be allowed to vote.


. (0)
Saturday May 25, 2013, 7:55 pm
Thank you so much for this, Julia. Dr. Pilley's research is valuable and brave - brave because animal psychologists in the mass do not like admitting that dogs have cognitive skills. There's not the slightest doubt in my mind that they do, but this on the basis of simple observation of what they do. Two examples from long ago when I was married and we had two standard poodles, Romy and Charley. These wee stories both involve Romy. First, we would randomly go through this procedure in which we would be sitting in the breakfast area. Romy would come through the kitchen door, very nonchalant, steady pace, walk down the middle of the kitchen, round the table, and head back to the kitchen door. But as he made his exit, things were a little different. He hugged the wall, head down, and just a leeeeetle bit too fast. All I had to do was quietly say his name, and he'd be out of there like a bat out of hell, me in pursuit to retrieve whatever he'd nicked this time. Anecdote Two: The Beauty Salon. One thing She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed and I agreed on as one was that 'the boys' would keep their natural coats - no fancy cuts. But when they came home from their grooming they did look magnificent. The difference was that Romy knew it. On that one day, as soon as he got in the house he would parade around the place, head high and, what boggled my mind, high-stepping like a dressage horse. At no other time did he walk like that -- ten minutes and it was over for another month.

Space is limited and I think those two examples speak for themselves. But if Dr. Pilley offered this sort of thing as evidence of cognitive abilities, he'd likely do himself harm in academic circles. These are what are regularly dismissed as 'anecdotal evidence', non-replicable, and taking place without controls. Well, I don't know how one would replicate it unless you could find another pilfering poodle with narcissistic tendencies. Psychologists can make it seem as if only replicable behaviour is significant, whereas in any context, with any subjects, their own protocols simply make it the only behaviour that can be studied. UNLESS, of course, it is to their convenience to make exceptions. I don't like to take you from the sublime to the hideous, but when you are told that the majority of paedophiles were themselves abused, whence comes that information? From prison psychologists' interviews with inmates, which is to say self-reporting. Corroborative evidence that they were so abused is rare as hen's teeth. I spent three years as a favour for a very ill criminologist friend reading files, interviewing and profiling sex offenders and I can assure you of that. To the point, you would think self-reporting worse than anecdotal evidence, and it is, especially when it comes from sex offenders, but it suits the needs of the system very nicely, and thus its acceptance. But when it comes to animal behaviour...I don't expect any professor of psychology to risk his or her position with research that, heretically, accepts the premise that certain types of idiosyncratic animal behaviour may be given at least tentative credence on the basis of anecdotal reportage, but perhaps an animal psychologist outside of academe might do so. Until that happens, we'll make no further progress in the area of pure, non-linguistic, behaviour and its ramifications for cognitive skills. We've been in a stand-off for decades.

Nancy Black (308)
Saturday May 25, 2013, 8:20 pm
Noted, tweeted, shared, tweeted, shared, and watched the video. As an English teacher, I especially enjoyed watching the video. I am in the camp that thinks all dogs are awesome, but I have to admit Chaser is more remarkable than most. (example, My Mollie and Vinnie's Dottie are more remarkable than Chaser)

Ellen m (215)
Saturday May 25, 2013, 8:42 pm
what Philip said ;-p

Alan Lambert (91)
Saturday May 25, 2013, 8:50 pm
Cool, and cute pup to boot.

Past Member (0)
Saturday May 25, 2013, 9:09 pm
This was awesome. Thank you for sharing Julia! :-))

Christine Stewart (134)
Saturday May 25, 2013, 9:40 pm
Smarter than most high school kids!

Katka Oelmann (279)
Saturday May 25, 2013, 10:45 pm

Glenn Byrnes (196)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 12:33 am
Noted. Thanks.

Julia R (296)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 12:48 am

"Chaser intuitively discovered how to comprehend sentences based on lots of background learning about different types of words," Dr. John Pilley, Chaser's owner and a retired psychology professor at Wofford College in South Carolina, told ScienceNews.

Dr. Pilley, the author of a new study about Chaser's abilities, previously taught her how to recognize objects by name, as well as verbs and prepositions in commands. He reinforced her understanding with praise and play."

Philip, I think your comments are well stated and I agree with you that after getting a degree in psychology that anecdotal evidence in the academic world is often underestimated and especially when it comes to animals! Animals, especially mammals, have brains that are similar to our own as Charles Darwin said, "it is the degree that is only different, nothing else." Wolves which dogs evolved from have to use intuition and insight to solve problems or they couldnít survive.

What I think humans (often times being speciesists and overlooking the imperative of survival), forget that animalsí brains have to think creatively, too, and use prior learning to understand new ideas and in the case of Chaser, using intiution based on his experience of hearing words in commands and in receiving praise when she committed the right action, eventually learned what certain prepositions, verbs, prepositional objects and direct objects (after hearing them repeatedly in commands) was able to extrapolate- namely the similarities in all of these learning trials- and eventually through a process of deductive reasoning and possibly even abstract thinking was involved here too, (as she had to pick out the identifying elements about all of these experiences in which she heard these words in a sentence) and she now shows that she is able to understand quite complex sentences. There is no denying that Chaser is a very smart dog and as his psychologist owner, Dr. Pilley points out that it was Chaserís intensive training in her first three years of life which probably contributed to his exceptional ability to understand language. Just as we have windows of opportunity to learn foreign languages, acquire sophisticated
mathematical reasoning, and optimize language processing, we can understand that other species would also be have stages in their development which would be more conducive to the acquisition of certain mental skills and abilities.

But to me, this observation and study of Chaser by Dr.Pilley, should open us up to looking at animals in ways that we may never have thought before- that thinking in various degrees, consciousness of their surroundings and of their feelings, using their intuition to make assessments or judgments about their situations- their pain and fear, also opens up even more important considerations in recognizing that animals process information very much like we do, and consequently, we a moral obligation to treat them much more ethically than we do now in all aspects of our society!

Sunday May 26, 2013, 1:30 am
I knew it... they are smarter than many people that I

Donna Hamilton (159)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 1:42 am
I'm not surprised by this; I rescued a border collie/sheltie cross who was as smart as the adorable dog in this video. Thanks, Julia.

Alice C (1797)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 2:41 am
Our dog Bruno knew so many words that I had to spell the word car : )
He even knew when I was on my way home !
He would wake up from a sound sleep if his name came up in conversation.
He passed away in 2008 and I still miss him.

P A (117)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 4:19 am
Science seems bewilderingly stuck in the (pre Darwin) thoughts of us as being so superior to animals we share just about no traits with them. Well I see us as animals who have many of the same traits as animals but in differing amounts - and I would have thought science would too. I understand about Science wanting to replicate experiments to formulate laws or behaviour - but surely that is just a matter of formulating tests and experiments?

I understand Chaser being so clever - my darling old Ellie, a German Shepherd, used to fib if she wanted something that she knew I would disapprove of - I would ask her where she wanted to go when she wanted to leave the room, was it to go and steal catfood (tut tut), to rootle in the bin (another no-no) or to drink water? She would always brighten and look enthusiastic on the 'water' question no matter how many other alternatives I put in there - but I often didn't hear the lapping of water from her dish - so went to investigate. So many times I found her up to mischief, having 'fibbed' about what she wanted. One time I found her undoing the knot on the bin bag with her teeth! She had left no mark or saliva on the bag, and I would have blamed myself had I found the bin bag open! (Other dogs just go through the side of a bin bag and don't care!). So when people say that 'dogs don't lie' - well, I beg to differ - if they want something naughty, they will! They can be colossally clever and read us like books!


Ruth C (87)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 8:29 am
Animals are smarter then a lot of people give them credit for!

Sara P (57)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 11:25 am
Thanks for sharing this incredible video Julia, and thanks to my friend Philip for sharing with me. This is a clear example about how much smart, sensitive and empathic are the animals!!!! And yes Ruth, they are smarter then a lot of people that I know!!!!

. (0)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 11:44 am
From the several postings I have seen involving Border Collies, they are amazing animals.

mariangela m (154)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 12:26 pm
Well, I'm not a scientist or a researcher :-), but I can tell you that my dogs and my cat surely understand sentences related with food or activities they like, such as playing or going out for a walk.

mariangela m (154)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 12:32 pm
And...they also understand when I'm upset as they did something wrong or broke something. I say "Chi Ť stato?" (in English: "Who did it?") and they start barking. It seems as if they tell me "I'm not guilty for that!" :-))

Laurie H (817)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 1:14 pm
Just an amazing video!!!! Not too surprising that dogs & cats understand as much as they do. My Golden Retriever was amazing too & I'll miss him forever, he's been gone since 1996. Chaser was great to watch in action, he's very special! Thanks for sharing, I shared this one too!!!!~~

Lynn Geth (185)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 3:01 pm
I can't say that I'm surprised at how smart Chaser is because I know that dogs (and cats) are extremely intelligent. My dog is a Maltese/Shi Tsui mix and she's so smart that it's impossible to tell people how extraordinary she is because they wouldn't believe me. Thanks to Sara for sharing! :-)

DaleLovesOttawa O (198)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 8:59 pm
Fascinating, Border Collies are delightful and very intelligent. We had one gracing our family years ago and these are delightful dogs.
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