By Peter Enzinna
NY Daily News blog
Published July 19, 2012
No, a dog didn’t write a book, but this may be the next best thing. John Pilley, who with Alliston Reid trained Chaser, a Border Collie with the largest tested memory of any dog, has reportedly signed a six-figure deal with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to publish "The World's Smartest Dog," the story of the pup's extraordinary talents, in fall 2013. (Photo: Wofford College, via Discovery News)
Chaser’s prodigious memory was the subject of a 2010 article in The New Scientist, and she’s on tape recognizing objects, categories, and commands galore. She has a vocabulary of just over 1,000 words – several times as many as the previous record holder, Rico, according to TIME magazine. (Rico’s 200 words seem relatively paltry, but remember, he was a dog.)
Chaser’s training, which involved intense repetition and recollection exercises, addressed questions of how much dogs could really understand of spoken human language. In applying various commands and categories, Pilley “[demonstrated] conclusively that Chaser understood that the verb had a meaning” outside of the object to which it referred.
Pilley’s book, while presumably no “Marley and Me,” should provide an insightful look into one dog’s interactions with the world around her, and the implications of her tremendous capacity to learn its ways. A six-figure deal is just the latest in a string of new tricks from this team.