Do the preparation task first. Then watch the video and do the exercise. Remember you can read the transcript at any time.
Speaker: Psychology professor John Pilley was interested in finding out how many words a dog can learn and seven years ago he found the perfect student, Chaser. Using crate loads of toys, John and his colleagues devised a groundbreaking study of canine intelligence. The toys all have names that Chaser has learned throughout her life and John picks eight at random.
John: Chase, let's play some. Chase, find Punt. Go get Punt. Bring Papa Punt. Do it, girl, do it. Yeah, good girl! Chase, find Roach. Find Roach. Find Roach. I want Roach. Good girl!
Speaker: John never looks at the toys on the mat, so to pick the right object Chaser has to actually understand what he's saying.
John: Yeah, there's, wow. In tub, in tub.
Speaker: In three years of intensive training, Chaser has learned an astounding 1,022 words. That's 116 balls, 26 Frisbees and over 800 cloth animals. But how does she do it? On the mat are five items Chaser knows and one new one she has never seen, a cat that John calls Meow.
John: Chase, find Meow, find Meow. Find Meow. Do it, girl. Do it. Do it. Do it, girl. Bring it to Papa.
Speaker: This task involves highly complex logic. The new word isn't in Chaser's vocabulary, so she has to understand that it might refer to an unfamiliar object.
John: Chase, get Meow. I want Meow. Do it, girl. Do it. Right now.
Speaker: The way to solve the puzzle is by a process of elimination.
John: Get Meow. Do it, do it. There's Meow. Come here, come here. That's good, good girl, good girl. Good girl, good girl.
Speaker: After only one trial, the new toy and the sound 'Meow' are lodged in her brain.
John: Watch Meow, catch Meow. Good girl!
Speaker: And it just goes to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks!
Worksheets and downloads
Do you think animals can understand human language?