Border Collies are widely known as the most intelligent breed of dog. Even for a Border Collie, however, Chaser is exceptional. This smart dog gained international fame, astounding many with her extensive knowledge of human words.

Chaser was trained primarily by Dr. John Pilley, who used to be a psychology professor at Wofford College in South Carolina.

Before he and his wife Sally had Chaser, Dr. Pilley had already tried teaching other dogs to understand human words. He observed that dogs could easily acquire new behavior, but his attempts at expanding their vocabulary didn’t bear much fruit.


Image credit: Chaser the Border Collie on Facebook

Dr. Pilley was already retired for several years when he got Chaser, but his love for teaching was once again sparked by an article published in the journal Science about a Border Collie who had a vocabulary of more than 200 words.

And thus over three years, he trained Chaser for up to five hours a day, patiently adding to her vocabulary using toys and the Border Collie’s natural herding instinct.

Play was integral to Chaser’s learning. She enjoyed playing with her humans, so the words uttered and repeated as much as 40 times during her training exercises acquired value and became associated with fun.

In time, Chaser learned to recognize more than 1,000 words as well as a few rudimentary sentences. Her intelligence wasn’t a fluke—she demonstrated a success rate of more than 90% whenever she underwent testing.


Image credit: Chaser the Border Collie on Facebook

In fact, when then-PBS host Neil deGrasse Tyson assessed her knowledge with “Darwin”, a new toy, Chaser was able to distinguish the doll from other toys unerringly.

Dr. Pilley published his research in 2010. In 2013, he released the book Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words, which he co-authored with writer Hilary Hinzmann.

Because of Dr. Pilley’s work, Chaser is now known as the world’s smartest dog.

More importantly, his experiments, along with the studies of other researchers, stimulated interest in the field of dog learning and showed us that dogs can use reason and make inferences.

Watch Chaser demonstrate her intelligence in the following video:

Source: NOVA PBS Official via YouTube

Many thanks to USA Today and ABC News for sharing Chaser’s story.

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