Caitlin Keating
November 11, 2013 12:00 PM

She’s not a big talker. She can’t read. Writing? Not so much. But Chaser, John Pilley’s border collie, has the vocabulary of a 4-year-old child. Pilley had retired from research psychology at South Carolina’s Wofford College when he adopted Chaser in 2004. His curiosity persisted: How much language can a dog learn? They had a lot of fun finding out. “The goal was to teach her elements of grammar,” says Pilley, 85. “But we wanted her to have a rounded life.” Through play he’s taught her 1,022 words so far. Chaser can identify 1,000 toys and understand simple sentences. (“Take the boomerang and put it in the bin.”) Now he’s sharing their story in Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words. The most amazing thing, with all those toys? “If we tell her to clean up, she will.”




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