Wofford College teacher researching intelligence of dogs


John W. Pilley, a psychologist who has taught at Wofford College for 30 years, is currently working on a project with Chaser, his border collie, that could help explain the way children learn language. The New York Times reports that Piley adopted Chaser as a puppy, and began training her for four to five hours a day. His findings are published in the journal Behavioural Processes.

Pilley would show Chaser an object, and then repeat its name as many as 40 times. The dog would then be asked to find the item. She was taught one or two new names a day.

According to the news source, border collies are traditionally sheep herding dogs. They are highly motivated, and crave constant activity.

"She still demands four to five hours a day," Pilley told the news source.

Over a three-year period, Chaser learned the names of over 800 cloth animals, 116 balls, 26 Frisbees and many other plastic items. After she acquired a vocabulary of more than 1,000 words, Pilley began teaching her actions, such as pawing, nosing and taking an object.

Individuals who wish to launch careers in psychology may have excellent employment opportunities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

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