Researchers prove their dog understands over 1000 words

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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Researchers say their dog, a Border Collie, has genuine language skills.

For dog owners, the findings that a dog can develop an extensive vocabulary may not be surprising. Pets are known to promote health and well-being for their owners. Now, scientists have shown there may be no limit to how many words a dog can comprehend.

In the current study, the dog's owners discovered that Chaser, a female Border Collie, was able to learn the names of 1022 objects over a period of three years. The only reason the authors stopped working with her on new words was from time constraints.

According to Alliston Reid who conducted the study along with John Pilley at Wofford College, "This research is important because it demonstrates that dogs, like children, can develop extensive vocabularies and understand that certain words represent individual objects and other words represent categories of objects, independent in meaning of what one is asked to do with those objects."

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The study authors determined Chaser's ability to learn words under carefully controlled conditions, in a series of three experiments. The dog’s comprehension even included names of proper nouns. They noted their dog remembered toy names better than they did.

Once the dog was taught the name of objects, Reid and Pilley wanted to be certain Chaser wasn't just following commands-so they combined nouns with fetching objects. Without any additional training, Chaser displayed an understanding of the command and was able to separate what each toy was.

Chaser, the Collie has the vocabulary of a 3 year old. The communication between the study authors and the Chaser was on the same part as communicating with a child. In the final analysis, the researchers found Border Collies have receptive language skills that parallel that of children. More studies are needed to find if other dog breeds have the same comprehension of language.

Behavioral Processes:
doi:10.1016/j.beproc.2010.11.007

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