Thursday, 23 December 2010

We all knew they were clever...

.... but now there is scientific proof. New Scientist carries a report of Chaser, a Border Collie that knos the name of 1022 objects and can reliably fetch them when required. The dog is also able to sort them into shape and function - something that a three year old child would be able to do.

Thanks to the Daily Mail phoning me up for a quote yesterday I know that the latest edition of New Scientist includes the story in depth:

"To find out whether there was a limit to the number of words a border collie could learn, psychologists Alliston Reid and John Pilley of Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, started an intensive training programme with Chaser.
"Over three years, they taught the collie the names of 1022 toys by introducing them to her one by one, getting her to fetch the toy and then repeating the name to reinforce the association.
"The team regularly tested Chaser on her entire vocabulary. Groups of 20 toys were chosen at random and put in a separate room from where Chaser had to retrieve them by name. The toys were in another room so the trainer would not unintentionally give Chaser cues about which toy to choose. According to Reid, the dog completed 838 of these tests over 3 years and never got less than 18 out of 20 right (Behavioural Processes, DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2010.11.007)."


This is obviously a big leap for the scientific community but possibly just reinforces many owners' existing belief that their dog understands every word they say.
Other great milestones in doggie intelligence:
The first day Endal helped his wheelchair bound owner without being asked by helping him to use the cash point machine.
Vicki McCleod's super-dogs that started attempting to speak and unlike a parrot used this ability to ask for things they wanted!

Can you think of any other significant advances?

2 comments:

cambstreasurer said...

You might be interested in the Family dog project which covers a broad spectrum of dog behaviour but concentrates mainly on the theory that dogs have evolved unique abilities to understand humans - for example they understand human pointing behaviour much better than chimpanzees even though chimps are so closely related to us.

Chapstaff said...

I reckon most dogs understand more about humans than we do about them.