IN YOUR UNIVERSITY TEACHING DAYS, YOUR MALE BORDER COLLIE YASHA WOULD ACCOMPANY YOU TO CLASS EACH DAY AND ASSIST IN TEACHING, INCLUDING MATH. YOUR FEMALE DOG CHASER KNOWS MORE THAN 1000 ENGLISH LANGUAGE NOUNS THAT YOU HAVE TAUGHT HER. DO YOU BELIEVE THAT ONE CANINE GENDER HAS A GREATER ABILITY TO LEARN OVER ANOTHER OR IS IT MORE DEPENDENT ON THE CANINE BREED?
An interesting question, but it depends on the breed. I’m not aware of any research where gender dictates ability. However, in 1984 there was a book published called “The Redundant Male: Is Sex Irrelevant in the Modern World”. Hum.
CHASER IS NOW THE SUBJECT OF YOUR UPCOMING BOOK AND SHE HAS APPEARED ON ABC WORLD NEWS TONIGHT, THE TODAY SHOW ON NBC, AND NOVA ON PBS. HAS ALL OF THIS FAME CHANGED HER?
(Laughing) No, she is still the same fun loving puppy we adopted in 2004. She does enjoy all the attention and is prepared for belly rubs and petting whenever offered. She has definitely become more independent and likes to think for herself, but I’m pretty sure that is due more to her coming of age and not a diva throw-down. Her ability as a con artist continues to grow as she can charm anyone into playing with her at any time.
NOW THAT THE BOOK IS COMPLETE AND CHASER IS EIGHT YEARS OLD, DO YOU CONTINUE TO TEACH HER NEW WORDS AND HAS HER ADVANCING AGE HAD AN EFFECT ON THE RATE AT WHICH SHE LEARNS?
Thankfully, we are just finishing the last chapter of the book slated for October release by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Written with Hilary Hinzmann. It is a “feel good” book similar to Marley & Me that tells the story of the science in a very organic and down to earth way. During the writing of the book, I have continued new research that I began several years ago with Chaser. I stopped formally teaching her new words at age 3 because she demonstrated that her capacity for learning & retaining nouns was rather limitless. I am happy to announce that our new research is being published in the Journal of “Learning and Motivation” which discusses our findings on successfully teaching Chaser syntax & imitation. We have been focusing on this for several years, and because learning builds on learning, as with children, she learns new words and concepts at a super fast rate. She is constantly listening to our conversations and picks things up without my even realizing it. If you were wondering, your dog IS listening to you.
WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY?
COMB OR BRUSH?
Comb for me, brush for Chaser.
DO YOU LIKE YOUR NAME?
Yes, it is my father’s name and as is typical in the south, family and friends simply called me JW.
FINISH THIS SENTENCE: MY AGE IS…………….
84, but I am like Merlin and aging backwards towards college age. I refuse to go back to teenage years, there are too many highs and lows there.
WHAT’S FOR DINNER TONIGHT?
Barbecue from the Rendezvous in Memphis and ice cold beer.