Chaser isn’t your average dog, not even your average border collie. With the help of its psychology doctor owner, he’s been able to learn over 1 200 human words, & as if reasoning through them.
It can also identify over a thousand objects. The dog’s owner has attached mostly non-sensical names to the objects. It’s likely that Chaser, due to its pedigree, would remember these terms as if learning to name sheep.
To know such a broad amount of individually-named objects seems out of the ordinary, even to border collies. & these, in turn, have been ranked highest among canines when it comes to consistently demonstrating knowledge.
But the ranking scale used leaves a lot of things unconsidered. The Afghan hound & beagle rank lowest & 7th lowest, respectively. Yet these breeds are specified for one thing only. To track a scent & single-mindedly go after it.
They don’t need to be on the lookout for human owners shouting instructions to them. By contrast, a border collie can’t be subjected to a single task. Their genetical expression for herding allows for a more complex response to properly do their ‘job’.
In other words, intelligence assessments are just variations on obedience tests, all specific to what a canine has been bred to accomplish. When it comes down to it, is being considered ‘smart’ as a dog, more relative than some people care to admit?
It’s still impressive to witness Chaser acknowledging the name of some objects, even if it hasn’t been seen in years. But identifying objects by attaching a specific name to them isn’t what Chaser’s owner is really after.
His main goal is to get Chaser to recognize word interactions, their modifiers. Most importantly, how one word is used differently, depending on the setting. Chaser has made it as far as being the first officially recognized dog to get categorical concepts when humans speak.
Meaning, if Chaser is asked to get a ball, it’ll get the one being asked to fetch, even though that specific ball is new to the dog. For most any other canine, they’ll just wait for the specific ball to show up, through which said ‘fetch’ command had been learned.
Next up, we’ll be covering the end of this unusual story alongside corresponding final impressions.