It’s more than just a dog’s life for a brainy border collie, CHASER, who knows the names of more than 1000 items. She has swapped sheep and shepherds for syntax and semantics. According to US researchers, Chaser has not only learnt and remembered over 1000 proper nouns, but has also grasped some of the finer points of English Grammar. —— Researchers who have tested her knowledge believe the results show that the dog learned, like kids, to respond in the right way to different types of words. Scientists who have trained the clever a canine say that Chaser knows the names of all her 1,022 toys and can categorise them by function and shape. – something humans only learn to do when they are about 3yrs old.
The study, involving more than seven years of teaching and research on the border collie, was published in the journal LEANING AND MOTIVATION. Chaser, born in 2004, lived in the home of the researchers. In the 1st three years, she learned and remembered 1.022 proper nouns. The objects included more than 800 cloth animals, 116 balls, 26 Frisbees and another 100 plastic toys. ———- The dog built up and maintained knowledge of the nouns over a 32-month period. Each month, she was tested on the entire vocabulary, and each time she was able to identify, correctly, more than 95% of the objects. Next, the researchers set about teaching the dog grammar. The goal was to investigate Chaser’s ability to understand the syntax and semantics of sentences, consisting of 3 elements of grammar ——– a prepositional object, a verb and a direct object. Findings showed that Chaser was successful in demonstrating syntax and semantic understanding on 18 of the 24 trials.
—- Roger Dobson.