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Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words | [John W. Pilley, Hilary Hinzmann]

Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words

Chaser has a way with words. She knows over a thousand of them—more than any other animal of any species except humans. In addition to common nouns like house, ball, and tree, she has memorized the names of more than one thousand toys and can retrieve any of them on command. Based on that learning, she and her owner and trainer, retired psychologist John Pilley, have moved on to further impressive feats, demonstrating her ability to understand sentences with multiple elements of grammar and to learn new behaviors by imitation.
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Publisher's Summary

The amazing story of a very smart Border collie who is redefining animal intelligence.

Chaser has a way with words. She knows over a thousand of them—more than any other animal of any species except humans. In addition to common nouns like house, ball, and tree, she has memorized the names of more than one thousand toys and can retrieve any of them on command. Based on that learning, she and her owner and trainer, retired psychologist John Pilley, have moved on to further impressive feats, demonstrating her ability to understand sentences with multiple elements of grammar and to learn new behaviors by imitation.

John’s ingenuity and tenacity as a researcher are as impressive as Chaser’s accomplishments. His groundbreaking approach has opened the door to a new understanding of animal intelligence, one that requires us to reconsider what actually goes on in a dog’s mind. Chaser’s achievements reveal her use of deductive reasoning and complex problem-solving skills to address novel challenges.Yet astonishingly, Chaser isn’t unique. John’s training methods can be adopted by any dog lover. Through the poignant story of how he trained Chaser, raised her as a member of the Pilley family, and proved her abilities to the scientific community, he reveals the positive impact of incorporating learning into play and more effectively channeling a dog’s natural drives.

John’s work with Chaser offers a fresh perspective on what’s possible in the relationship between a dog and a human. His story points us toward a new way of relating to our canine companions that takes into account our evolving understanding of the way animals and humans learn.

©2013 John W. Pilley, Jr. (P)2014 Audible Inc.

What the Critics Say

"This marvelous blend of good science and heartwarming dog story will inspire all of us to reexamine our canine friends." (Booklist)

"A delightful memoir that offers a challenge to behavioral psychologists and inspiration for pet lovers." (Kirkus Reviews)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (119 )
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  •  
    Russell T. Stauffer Texas 06-16-14
    Russell T. Stauffer Texas 06-16-14 Member Since 2014

    Rusty

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    "Wonderful Book - nice mix of science and heart"
    If you could sum up Chaser in three words, what would they be?

    If you like dogs, and are interested in how they learn, their possibilities, and how they think..... Then this is a great read (listen) for you. Well written, purposeful, solid science, and full of love for the species. We know a lot less about dogs then you may assume. This book takes the ball a bit further down the field, thankfully.

    Many scientists cling stubbornly to relatively ancient views opt hat say dogs are machines made of flesh. They don't think. They don't feel. One reason this is true, is because while dog owners may believe their dogs are geniuses with a heart the size of Alaska, it has been Very hard to prove scientifically, how dogs think, learn and feel. Thus the PROVEN science on dog abilities has only recently moved PAST THE "dog as machine" view.

    Dr Pilley does a great job of conducting his research, and the story of his work is gripping. Must read.


    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Silvia 05-18-15
    Silvia 05-18-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Great book!"

    I love dogs and enjoy playing with mine quite a bit. A little while ago, I had a discussion with a dog trainer who insisted that dogs cannot recognize words, only sounds. To me this did not make sense. For words are sounds, and I have observed my own dog, a yellow lab, learn to distinguish her toys by name, for example. So, when I came across this book, I bought it in an instant. It not only confirmed my observations -that dogs can learn words- but also gave me insights into cognitive processes and tips for dog training through play! Besides, it's a really well told and fun story to read/hear!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth 04-12-15
    Elizabeth 04-12-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Circle of life"

    As a puppy raiser of 24 dogs from 4 different Service and guide dog organizations, this read was heartwarming to say the least. We really can change the lives of our brave veterans as well as others facing challenges I can't even imagine. It helps us to complete the story , and start over with a new future hero. Thank you.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mom of 3 01-26-15
    mom of 3 01-26-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Great book and touching story!!"

    Great dog story, learned a lot on how a dog thinks, as well as, ways to work with and train a dog with play. I have always believed dogs understand what you say to them and this book confirms that. I have already recommended this book to many!!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    N. Rogers San Antonio, TX, USA 01-18-15
    N. Rogers San Antonio, TX, USA 01-18-15 Member Since 2008
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    "An Inspiring Way to Retire!"

    The information provided on Chaser and his ability to learn was very interesting to me personally. However, I found the positive influence this project had on the author, Johm Pilley, equally fascinating. Pilley did his extensive work with Chaser in his late 70s, and it is still continuing into his mid-80s. The research, as well as his incredibly strong relationship with his dog, have kept him physically, mentally, and spiritually energized. As a senior citizen who works with active large dogs, I find that very encouraging.

    This is a book worth reading for anyone interested in animal intelligence or simply in learning more about dogs as our companions--or both. I enjoyed it and admire Professor Pilley for his impressive dedication to his new career, furthering our understanding of canine language acquisition. In my opinion, he models the perfect "retirement." It sure beats sitting on a beach or lounging on the front porch. He is quite an inspiration.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    drewwest 01-03-15
    drewwest 01-03-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Insight to Border Collies"

    Written like a thesis, dry but insightful a must for Border Collie owners in the city or not shepherds.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    cyndi USA 01-02-15
    cyndi USA 01-02-15 Member Since 2013

    c

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    "Fascinating"

    I will start off by saying that I am a complete and total dog lover. As some other reviewer's have mentioned, the book does feel like it has some padding in it, but for me this is forgivable because the vast majority of it is both really interesting and very engaging. It is beautiful he performed and really brought Chaser and the relationship she shared with Dr. Pilley to life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sheila 01-01-15
    Sheila 01-01-15

    Technology Fan

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    "Hallmark Movie Crossed with Nature Channel"

    This is a nice book written by a nice man and read by a nice (and talented) reader. It reminds me of a cross between a very very long Hallmark movie crossed with a movie from the nature channel and narrated by my elderly grandfather. It goes into many details of stories the point of which is not entirely clear but I kept listening because it is Grandpa and it is a nice story (like the Hallmark Channel). At the same time I learned a bit about training a dog and a bit more about psychology (perhaps like the Nature Channel).

    I buy many audiobooks to learn and a few others to keep myself awake on a long drive. This was neither of those but it was a nice book...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gotta Tellya Santa Rosa, CA 12-31-14
    Gotta Tellya Santa Rosa, CA 12-31-14 Member Since 2013

    KEC

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    "Great dog! But the book had some dull moments."

    This book is an interesting mix of scientific study method and the relationship between the author and his beloved dog, Chaser. I much preferred the relationship aspects of the story. I realize that the author is a retired professor of psychology, who deliberately utilized scientific principles and methods to prove that Chaser had developed, thanks to daily training, a profound understanding of human language. Still, I was bored when the goals, parameters and results of the studies were outlined, described and summarized over and over and over. My interest revived whenever the author set aside his scientific perspective to simply relate stories about himself, his family and Chaser. My lack of interest in the actual studies of Chaser stems from my amazement over the compulsion of scientists to prove the obvious. Anyone who has a dog, cares for the dog and spends adequate time interacting with the dog is well aware that the dog understands multiple words in a variety of combinations and syntax. The only people who could possibly need proof would be those who agree with Descartes, that animals are unthinking, unfeeling beings who conduct their lives based on instinct and reflex. If confounding that assumption was the author's goal, I commend him for his efforts. But I would have preferred a straightforward telling of Chaser's story without so many references to the scientific method. The narration of this audio book was excellent, by the way.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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