As the world’s smartest dog breed, Border collies are initially bred to be herding dogs. Because of their high level of trainability, they are not only used as sheepdogs but also as working dogs that detect bombs and narcotics and help in search and rescue. They are also highly competitive canines that participate in various agility competitions. If you need more convincing, get to know three of the smartest Border collies on the planet.
Chaser, the Border collie recognised as “the world’s smartest dog”
According to experts, an average dog can process about 165 words with training. But a Border collie named Chaser was able to learn more than 1,000 nouns.
Chaser’s story began when he met Dr John Pilley in 2004. Inspired by Rico, a dog that understands over 200 words, Dr Pilley started his mission to explore the capability of a dog’s brain to process human language using his female pup named Chaser. When asked about the dog’s name, Dr Pilley answered, “anything that moves she wants to chase.”
Dr Pilley trained Chaser for five hours each day. He introduced the name of the object by showing it to Chaser and repeatedly speaks the name up to 40 times. After that, he hid the item and gave commands for Chaser to find the said object. Within five months of training, Chaser was able to comprehend 40 words. The same method was used for over three years for training and introducing words.
Sadly, Chaser died of natural causes on 23rd July 2019. She was 15 years old.
Rico, the Border collie that’s smarter than your toddler
Before Chaser, there was Rico in the early 2000s. He was first discovered on a German television game show mastering 200 words and counting. Fascinated by Rico’s intelligence, researchers from the Max Planck Institution for Evolutionary Anthropology invited Rico and his owners for a meeting. They found out that Rico can learn an unfamiliar word when the item is grouped together with the other well-known toys.
“This retrieval rate is comparable to the performance of three-year-old toddlers,” say the researchers. This performance is called ‘fast-mapping’. Just like Chaser, Rico could learn newly introduced names by exclusion and remember them.
Betsy, the Border collie with a vocabulary of more than 300 words
Another Border collie that caught the eye of the public is a female pup named Betsy from Vienna, Austria. She made her first appearance on the National Geographic (Inside Animal Minds) cover. Animal cognition researchers from National Geographic posted an ad that they were looking for ‘smart dogs’ and Betsy was chosen.
Being trained as early as 10 weeks old, young Betsy can quickly learn a word only after hearing it twice. Over the course of the training, she had learned more than 340 words. She was able to retrieve objects correctly 38 out of 40. She can identify 15 people with their names and connect two-dimensional images to three-dimensional items.
“Even our closest relatives, the great apes, can’t do what [Betsy] can do,” says Julian Kaminski, a cognitive psychologist.
World’s smartest dog breeds
Chaser, Rico, and Betsy have proven that Border collies deserve to be recognised as the smartest dog breed in the world. In the book, The Intelligence of Dogs by British Columbia neuropsychologist Stanley Coren reveals a list of the most intelligent dogs. The Border collie is followed (in order) by the Poodle, German shepherd, Golden retriever, Doberman pinscher, Shetland sheepdog, Labrador retriever, Papillon, Rottweiler, and Australian Cattle dog.