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Exclusive Interview Dr. John Pilley, Owner of the Smartest Dog In The World

Written by: Scott H
Scott Haiduc is the Director of Publishing for iHeartDogs, iHeartCats and The Hero Company. When not working, Scott spends his time on the farm, taking care of his animals and crops.Read more
| Published on October 25, 2014

How can you make your dog smarter?

After reading, watching, and/or hearing about Chaser, the amazing Border collie that is being hailed as the World’s smartest dog, you may have thought about your own dog and wondered, “How can I make my dog smarter?” Or, maybe you thought, “My dog is smarter than that dog – how can I prove it?”

In this exclusive interview, Dr. Pilley (owner and trainer of Chaser) let us in on some of his training secrets, including what he believes is the reason for Chaser’s incredible ability to learn.

It just might change the way you think about your dog. And, if you haven’t read his book – do it! Use this link for 20% off the paperback cover price.

If you had to attribute “one thing” to Chaser’s level of intelligence, what would it be?

Her inborn instinct.  Border collies have been bred for hundreds of years to give their eye to sheep and their ear to the farmer.  They have unshakable focus with an affinity for human language as well as endless energy.  Chaser has all of these classic traits which have fast tracked her learning of language.  We have channeled her love of herding into her toys, which brings her great joy.

Do you believe any breed of dog can learn as much as Chaser has?

Any herding or working dog.  The key is to tap into the dog’s genetic disposition and use that as your foundation to teach them.  All dogs can learn, just like all children can learn, but one size does not fit all.   

Of all the games you and Chaser play (talked about in your book!), is their one you recommend dog owners start with?  

Dr. Pilley's training philosophy is built around play - what could be better?
Dr. Pilley’s training philosophy is built around play – what could be better?

I believe it would be chasing and fetching a ball.  Most dogs love movement and engagement with their trainer.   Keep the play sessions short and high energy.  If your dog doesn’t bring you the ball, then chase after them with the ball and you’ll see they will eventually drop it for you to throw.  They have to be able to dictate some of the play.  

Do you believe that a dog doing what he was “bred to do” increases the dogs intelligence? Why?

Utilizing a dogs inherent instinct capitalizes on their strengths and gives the dog great pleasure, which is a natural reinforcement.  Just like people, if you enjoy what you are doing, your capacity to learn is much greater.  

What tips do you have for dog owners wanting to increase their dog’s intelligence?

Well, let’s begin with increasing our own intelligence first.  To do this you need to:

  • Know your dog.  Pay attention to what they enjoy and what they don’t.
  • Have great patience.  Learning anything takes time and repetition, dogs are no different.
  • No bad dogs.  Only positive reinforcement.  If your dog isn’t understanding something, your method is most likely flawed.
  • Spend time with your dog, instead of going to the dog park & parking yourself on the sidelines, go play with your dog and engage with him.

Now go play with your dog!

About the Author

Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She is the founder of A Fairytail House, a unique all-positive all-sport dog training facility that helps rescue dogs in her area and provides free seminars and training classes for the community. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.


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