Jan 192011

In dg’s spare time, he is reaching beyond Chaser and Rico (see very serious NY Times article below) and teaching Lucy, the wonder dog (the NC blue dog), to read. They’re starting with War and Peace because, as dg told Lucy, it’s meaty. Lucy already has a large vocabulary beginning with words like food, breakfast, dinner, squirrel, walk, frisbee, cookie, dog and outside. She has a working familiarity with the phrase “too much dog.” Occasionally, she understands more difficult concepts such as sit, down, come, stay (rarely, though dg thinks she is playing with him; there is a hint of contempt in her eyes). With the Tolstoy novel, dg is using a reward system (much as he does with his creative writing students). He is familiarizing her with the phrase War and Peace by scraping peanut butter onto the cover. She now can find War and Peace on the book shelf or in a pile of unrelated books. Next he will train her to turn to page 1 using forepaws and nose. —dg

Chaser, a border collie who lives in Spartanburg, S.C., has the largest vocabulary of any known dog. She knows 1,022 nouns, a record that displays unexpected depths of the canine mind and may help explain how children acquire language.

Chaser belongs to John W. Pilley, a psychologist who taught for 30 years at Wofford College, a liberal arts institution in Spartanburg. In 2004, after he had retired, he read a report in Science about Rico, a border collie whose German owners had taught him to recognize 200 items, mostly toys and balls. Dr. Pilley decided to repeat the experiment using a technique he had developed for teaching dogs, and he describes his findings in the current issue of the journal Behavioural Processes.

via Dog Might Provide Clues on How Language Is Acquired – NYTimes.com.

  13 Responses to “Teaching your dog to read”

  1. I knew you didn’t have enough to do. Maybe you should ask for more students; that’ll keep you busy.

  2. Will this new canine commitment interfere with your responsibilities as my VCFA advisor this semester?

  3. Lucy displayed very hostile behavior towards me at the NC reception. I’m wondering if this was a result of her stressful training, or the result of something specific about me. Perhaps my U.S. citizenship, or the keloid scars from my time under DG’s tutelage? It’s going to take a lot to impress me and Petunia, who scoffs at Tolstoy by the way. ‘Tuna says if you want to read literature, read Dickens, Coleridge, Willy S. What can I say, she’s an English bulldog.

  4. Wow, Rich. Tuna’s amazing.
    Could you get her on tape and Youtube it?
    (There’s money in film.)

    Wendy and I have been lax, very lax by y’all’s standards. We’ve been struggling with opening word of the following paragraph:

    “One Fish, Two Fish
    Red Fish, Blue Fish.
    This One has a little Car,
    This One has a little Star,
    Say, what a lot of Fish there are.”

  5. Star heard about all this and has begun her first poem. She was inspired by a bulky,furry dog she met on a road through the woods, who would not, no matter how she encouraged him, join in any kind of game. He was at all times very much on his dignity, pausing only to lift his leg to piss copiously on various features of the landscape.

    The poem is to be called The Full Professor.

  6. Wendy’s heard about Star and, in the rush to be first, has composed her first verse, a doggy sort of SLAM:

    bark ruff yip
    yippity ruffety lick
    woof woof woo-oof
    bark ruff yip.

    we’re working on the translation.

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