If you’re anything like me and most pet parents, you probably think your fur kid is pretty doggone smart. We all know from personal experience that dogs are way smarter than the average person gives them credit for…but wait until you meet Chaser! Thanks to our sponsor, BlogPaws, I was able to get my paws on an advance review copy of the soon to be released book, Chaser — Unlocking The Genius Of The Dog Who Knows A Thousand Words by John W. Pilley.
It’s possible you’ve already heard about Chaser the Border Collie in the news or on TV and YouTube. She’s famous for understanding more words than any other dog on record. In addition to common nouns like house, ball, and tree, she has memorized the names of more than 1,000 toys (Daisy is pretty envious of a dog with THAT many!) and can retrieve any of them on command.
Based on that learning, she and her owner John Pilley, have moved on even further, demonstrating her ability to understand sentences with multiple elements of grammar and to learn new behaviors by imitation. Her owner, the author of this new book, is a retired psychology professor from Wofford College in South Carolina and does an excellent job throughout the book of explaining much of the science and psychology behind such successful dog training, using fun and interesting stories involving both Chaser and his previous dog, the much beloved Yasha.
In addition to his academic knowledge, Pilley incorporates the stories and wisdom of farmers, shepherds and Border collie trainers, giving the reader great insight into how the best trainers use the power of instinct to foster a dog’s creative problem solving ability. It’s a cool way to think about dog training and draws the distinction between teaching a skill or trick versus “creative teaching”. I love the quote he shares about this from Arthur Allen who wrote Border Collies in America, “Try to make it a fifty-fifty proposition of you trying to understand your dog while your dog is trying to understand you.”
In addition to really getting to know Chaser, the author, his wife Sally and the rest of their family, there’s also lots of storytelling in this book, which I loved. A few of my favorites are the story of how Chaser got her name, how Chaser became a media sensation and “went viral” and “Chaser Goes To Washington”.
The book is both entertaining and informative, and though most of us won’t have the amount of time or patience Pilley did to spend working with Chaser, and not every dog is as smart or interested in learning as Chaser, any dog lover will find something in this book that helps them gain a greater understanding of, and appreciation for their own dog.