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

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  756 Ratings  ·  125 Reviews
A New York Times Bestseller

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 t
Hardcover, 260 pages
Published October 29th 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2013)
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Nov 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
John Pilley uses old-school psychology to train his border collie in Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words, co-authored with Hilary Hinzmann. What a coincidence that the methods he uses, based on his experience as a professor of human psychology, look a lot like force-free dog training!

With one exception: Like Ted Kerasote in Merle’s Door, Pilley turns to an aversive method to curb Chaser’s “chase drive.” While Kerasote used a shock collar, Pilley uses a mighty jerk
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: animal-books
This was an enjoyable and educational read. Dr. Pilley, a retired psychology professor who loves dogs, takes the time to not only educate his border collie, but document her learning so that there is some scientific contribution made in terms of what animals can understand about language and how they learn. The book is far more in depth than any videos you can see about Chaser, yet accessible to the average reader vs. scientist in terms of methodology. It is clear that Chaser is a loved family m ...more
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, ...more
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The story does have a scientific background in language learning, but it's primarily a memory, author's personal experience of the communication with the dog, through training. It's difficult to avoid the comparison between own dog with Chaser - which is extremely susceptibility to learning, but I'm convinced that we all see our own pets as the smartest (and the most beautiful) animal in the world, and that we all can share our own breathtaking experience of our pets in communicating with us. Th ...more
Dec 06, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chaser is a border collie who knows the names of over one thousand of her toys. She can fetch them, paw at them or nose them on command- by others too not just her dad/trainer. This is the story of how Dr. Pilley, a retired psychology professor trained and tested Chaser. It also covers how they got published and the shows they were on.

It is very interesting if a little long winded. Chaser knows a bunch of balls by ball, an individual name and toy. How Dr. Pilley taught this to Chaser was gone o
Mar 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Interesting book, VERY interesting dog. Lucky dog to have come into the life of the perfect human being for her. He is a mostly retired psychology professor who loves dogs and has a lot of time on his hands, literally 4-5+ hours a day to work with the dog, plus students to help him. It's the perfect storm of people, animal, and passion for each other's well-being.

Some aspects of the book were a bit tedious. He'd start out talking about something mundane and I'd be thinking, something is going t
Apr 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014, non-fiction
I really don't think there was enough here to fill an entire book, so there was a lot of filler that I found myself skipping over. Still, I enjoyed it, and am trying some of the things I learned here with my own dog. I loved the photo on the back flap; it made me smile every time I looked at it.
Gabrielle de Waal
Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Chaser is a Very Good Dog.
Mary (BookHounds)

Bottom Line: Dogs are much smarter than they are given credit. John Pilley explains exactly how quickly they learn and given the chance can communicate with us. Pilley explains how he used his dogs as research subjects in his lab in his job as a psychology professor. His students observed them and dissected their abilities. After his last dog dies, his wife insists he is getting a new puppy for Christmas and they both agree that a local breeder of Border Collies is their best
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing book about an amazing animal. What this book is really good at doing is comparing your own, untrained animals to the wit of Chaser. I mean sure, Danny understands 'Get a Ball', but I've never discriminated against any of his toys. They are all 'Ball' and a stick does just as well. That this dog knows each of its toys by name, and knows the difference between nosing or taking the toy amazes me. I knew Border Collies were intelligent (two of my boys are half Border Collie) but this dog ...more
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dog
Perfect book for an English teacher and a dog lover such as myself. Might be a bit of a slog for someone not quite as interested in how language is learned (by humans or by dogs). What a smart dog you are, Chaser!
Noella Allisen
May 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Now that's one smart dog and an incredibly dedicated, patient, loving owner. All of this came out loud and clear in this book. I can't say I was riveted to the story but it was interesting to read about the training.
Kathy England
Apr 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Anyone interested in dogs and/or animal behavior should read this book. The author gets bogged down with too much detail about the everyday, notably Chaser's appearances on TV, but the information on how he taught Chaser and what Chaser is capable of is extremely interesting.
Sophia Velázquez
Nov 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Amazing application of language psychology
Jane Steff
Jun 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Loved it. I want a border collie now.
Leanna Aker
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this story about Chaser and his retired-from-academia owner. The story discusses how Chaser came to know over 1000 words, learn how to identify objects by exclusion, and start to put together 3 part commands (take one object to another object). It helps the story that Chaser is very endearing. :-)

One minor gripe.... at times the book seems to take the flavor of a dog training book. (i.e., do it this way). However, I think that if the "typical" dog owner was looking to train a "typical"
Steve Nolan
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've read a lot of books about famous animals recently, and this is by far the best one. (It's so deep in my wheelhouse I think it can't ever get back out.)

You get a real sense of what the person, animal and science are all doing, which is a lot more than most of these books do. (Usually it's just a recollection about what the animal's owner's life was like. Which, I don't care, you're not the point of this. Tell me more about the cute puppy.)

It'd prolly have been a 5 star review, if not for th
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was interesting on several levels. First and foremost, of course, is Chaser! I was amazed at how Chaser learned and his deductive abilities. I also loved the bond between Chaser and the author. In addition to Chaser, this book was part memoir and part a discussion about the author's teaching methods and research. Overall, I enjoyed this.
Sally Pearce
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle, read-in-2017
I was so excited to start this book, thinking it was a good book about dogs. a 40%, I decided that I really wasn't interested in a whole book on trading a Border collie. I don't have one and never will. I know how smart they are.

The research and training was good and interesting, but I have so many books that I really want to read that I'm moving on.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating story and research

This book confirms what many dog owners have thought all along: they dogs are smarter than most people think. The author's painstaking experimentation gives us clues on how to continue to learn about their cognition and what it means for human child development.
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was so inspiring- but also confirming for anyone who knows and loves their dog, for they know all this already. :)
Cathy Harbert
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable and enlightening.
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely wonderful dog book that happens to also be about science. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to train a puppy, because the training methods are awesome.
Chris Craddock
Oct 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A Unique Combination of Nature AND Nurture

Chaser is an amazing dog who is chronicled in a book by John W. Pilley, an emeritus professor of psychology at Wofford College in South Carolina. Chaser combines the instincts of a border collie with the training of a research subject in an advanced psychology experiment in language learning. A unique combination of Nature AND Nurture. She is not only a research subject, she is a member of the Pilley Family. Professor Pilley has patiently trained her in
Ed Bond
May 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Robin Tierney
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is about a dog and also, about her person, who is a researcher and retired college professor. It is a memoir of a wonderful time in a man’s life, when he retires yet discovers a new calling. The author, Dr. Pilley, indicated that he viewed Chaser as a partner in research, and attributed the great strides they made in communication and comprehension to Chaser being able to use her own reasoning. Creative learning, not rote learning (teaching a predetermined response) -- stimulating and ...more
Karla Eaton
Oct 19, 2014 rated it liked it
What a fascinating book this was for me as a teacher and a dog lover and owner.
As a teacher, I admire Dr. P's patience and thoughtfulness. When something didn't work, he figured out a way to re-work the system so that Chaser could be successful. One of the best examples of this was trying to teach him indirect objects - like take the blue ball to the couch. She already had proper and common nouns as well as adjectives and verbs, but needed that next step. Dr. P realized that Chaser was hearing
Marsha Hubbell
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I truly believe “Chaser” by John W. Pilley is one of the best “dog” books I’ve ever read! This is the true story of a border collie that made national news by learning more than a thousand words and the story of a retired psychologist who, recognizing the intelligence of dogs, taught him. Their journey together is a guide to all dog lovers.

There are so many excerpts I “dog-eared” while reading. Here are just a few:

“A friend of mine says, ‘If you get a pet, eventually you get a broken heart.’ The
Apr 16, 2015 rated it liked it
It should be no surprise that Border Collies are among the smartest of all dog breeds, but that wasn’t enough for John W. Pilley, emeritus professor of psychology and very much a dog person. In Chaser, Pilley sets out to examine if traditional methods of teaching human infants can be applied to a dog specifically bred for its intelligence; and, in doing so, to document what this teaches us about both sides of man’s best friendship.

While the concept is fascinating and the results are mind-blowing
Reggie Billingsworth
Sep 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What an intriguing read! Not great literature. More for it's astounding content, "Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog..." unabashedly makes the tale [I refuse to descend to a pun here] the thing. One glance at the exquisite cover photo and you know this dog is wired on her fantastically fortunate life!

This book stands tall as an entertaining report on the forward thinking and indefatigable attention John W. Pilley and his family have committed to inspiring and interacting CONSTANTLY with his
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Free Books, .99 &...: Chaser and Decoding Your Dog! 2 12 Jan 31, 2014 03:36AM  
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JOHN W. PILLEY is an emeritus professor of psychology at Wofford College. He has been working with Chaser since 2004 and has published the findings from their work in the journal Behavioural Processes.

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“There was no doubt about it. Chaser had learned Puddin the pony’s name in a single trial. Identifying the new object correctly after hearing its name only once indicated that Chaser had achieved a form of referential understanding. Somehow she had grasped the idea that objects can have names.” 2 likes
“The spirit of our relationship with one pet lives on in and shapes the spirit of our relationship with another pet, even years later.” 0 likes
More quotes…