I caught the NOVA segment about Chaser with Neil Degrasse Tyson, and I rather wondered how she was trained. I have also read a bit about Alex, the African Gray parrot, and his training regimen, so when I saw this book on my list, I pounced.
It’s a pretty good read. Not great lit, and not great dog training material, and if you have a smart puppy and five hours a day to invest in training, you too can probably have a dog who knows an awful lot. That’s what I needed to know. Training dogs like Chaser is a full time gig.
That said, like Alex the parrot, it only takes one black swan to blow the model wide open. If one dog with a lot of attention can learn 1000 words, lots of dogs can learn a lot more than we give them credit for. I rather hate that I had to out-think my lab when he learned how to open chain link fence gates. He was so happy with himself. Can’t figure out cotter pins yet.
Of course, the sheepherders who work with BCs all the time knew it all along. They’re not surprised by dogs knowing sentence structure. I suspect many service dogs can do pretty much the same.
So–You’ll learn that it’s possible; you’ll win arguments with unbelievers, and you’ll learn a little bit about how it was done. You’ll have to push through a few dry places.
And remember, Chaser’s doing it all in ESL. One can only wonder what she knows in Dog.