How My Dog Learned a Toddler-Level Vocabulary
Patience and play helped Chaser learn 1K words: John Pilley
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Nov 5, 2013 1:51 PM CST
Updated Nov 9, 2013 12:35 PM CST
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(Newser) – Chaser the border collie knows about 1,000 words, and if you believe a Duke researcher, she may be "the most scientifically important dog in over a century." But her skills aren't necessarily out of your dog's reach, writes Chaser's owner, John Pilley, in Time. "Any dog is potentially capable of reaching toddler-level cognition and development, including learning the basic elements of language." Pilley taught Chaser through games, "speaking to her throughout the day in simple words and phrases just as I would to a toddler."

Learning one concept led to another. For instance, at five months old, she achieved what researchers call "one-to-one mapping," recognition that a single word can refer to a single object. After that, she learned that words can be combined into different phrases, that one toy can have multiple names, and one name can refer to multiple similar objects (like "stick.") Her learned ability to follow instructions to imitate matches toddlers' development, as does her understanding of pointing—something all dogs understand. "Through play ... Chaser continues to learn things that were once thought to be possible only for humans, demonstrating that our minds and dogs’ minds are much more alike than we think." Click for the full piece.

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Nov 15, 2013 8:52 PM CST
When I was growing up, we had a dog so smart we could tell him to "Go get Mom's pink slippers." (She also had blue slippers, but he knew the difference.) Or, "Bring me the bathroom rug," and he never hesitated. Dogs who hold eye contact and are keenly aware of what their owner's want of them tend to be the smartest dogs. It's amazing how inherently smart they can be.
Nov 11, 2013 12:58 PM CST
It would have been nice to have seen the dog pick up the requested items from a visible pile not dissappear behind a couch and reappear with something we have to assume was the requested object.. We can't tell if the dog picked up the item if someone behind the couch handed it to the dog?
Nov 10, 2013 1:30 AM CST
My dog eats his own poop :-(