Dog owners like to think that their pets understand what they’re
Indeed, some owners will talk to their dogs at great length while the
animal gazes back at them with what is probably a mixture of affection
However, there is one dog who appears to understand a great deal of
what is being said.
Chaser the border collie knows over 1,000
words - more than any other animal
Border collie Chaser has, according to psychologists Alliston Reid
and John Pilley, managed to learn more than 1,000 words.
Their findings could mean that all those conversations with our pets
aren’t entirely wasted.
Professor Reid and Dr Pilley worked intensively with six-year-old
Chaser for three years to see how large a vocabulary she could command.
They made up names for 1,022 toys, including frisbees, balls and
stuffed animals, and found she was able to learn and remember them all.
Chaser, owned by Dr Pilley, was also able to sort them according to
function and shape, something children learn at around three.
Professor Reid said: ‘We wanted to see if there was a limit to the
number of words a dog could understand, and if they could understand the
name of an object rather than just respond to a command related to an
object, such as fetch.
‘We worked with Chaser for four to five hours each day testing her on
the words over and over again and were able to establish that she could
remember and distinguish between them all. We’re not saying this means
dogs can learn language in the same way children do, but it does show
they are capable of learning many more words than might have been
The research at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina,
involved introducing Chaser to the toys one by one and then repeating
the name to reinforce the association. She was also regularly tested on
her entire vocabulary.
Groups of 20 toys were chosen at random and Chaser had to retrieve
them by name.
She completed 838 of these tests over the three years and never got less
than 18 out of 20 right, according to the findings published in the New
Chaser, pictured here on top of the pile of
toys, has had intensive training to learn every one of their names
Chaser was also taught to combine three different commands with the
toys – ‘paw’ (move it with your paw), ‘nose’ (push it with your nose’),
Beverley Cuddy, editor of Dogs Today magazine, said: ‘It’s very
inspiring. Many owners think their dogs are capable of understanding a
lot more than they might feel comfortable with letting on about and now
science seems to be saying they’re not mad to think so.’
In 2004 it was claimed border collie Rico, aged nine from Leipzig in
Germany, knew 200 words.