Chaser is a border collie that not only can identify over a thousand objects by name, she even knows basic grammar and the three verbs paw, nose, and fetch, thus being able to distinguish what she was expected to do with each object. That is not all. She could also recognize categories, in other words common nouns. “She correctly follows the command “Fetch a Frisbee” or “Fetch a ball.” She can also learn by exclusion, as children do. If she is asked to fetch a new toy with a word she does not know, she will pick it out from ones that are familiar.”
Chaser will appear in the PBS show Nova on February 9.
Chaser learned one or two new words each day, requiring four or five hours of daily practice. That is some dedication. My own dog Baxter, while an eager learner, tends to call it a day after about fifteen minutes and go off and take a nap. “Everything in moderation” seems to be his motto.
I was intrigued to read that in order for her trainer to remember what he had called the thousand objects, he wrote the name of each on the object with indelible ink. It is, of course, possible that Chaser is so smart that she had learned to read, thus saving herself the trouble of learning the names of all the objects.