The loss of
but the legacy continues . . . . .
Chaser found her wings on July 23rd, 2019 joining John Pilley for their next adventure . . .
For all media, please refer to this statement below, it is the most accurate information to date.
All inquiries, please contact Pilley Bianchi:
Kindly also refer to the Scientific Journals of Chaser's groundbreaking accomplishments below.
This is the statement from the Pilley family:
Chaser the Border collie, known as “the smartest dog in the world” whose scientific smarts took the world by storm in 2011 died of natural causes, July 23rd, 2019. Chaser was 15 years old and the beloved pet dog of Dr. John W. Pilley, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Wofford College and Sally Pilley. Their pioneering work gave the world scientific, empirical evidence that dogs are not only smarter than we think, but capable of much more. Together, they embarked on a remarkable journey as a research team, cracking the code on teaching the family dog human language through an under-utilized tool in contemporary dog training; play.
As a retired psychologist, Pilley always knew his family’s dogs were much smarter than most scientists would admit. When his wife Sally gave him a Border collie puppy shortly before his seventy-sixth birthday, he decided to prove it. Pilley set his sights on teaching his beloved and brilliant dog a record-busting vocabulary of 1000 proper nouns in addition to common nouns like house, ball and tree. He demonstrated the remarkable extent of Chaser’s long-term memory, and illustrated her understanding of words as more than object names and in more contexts than simply fetching an object. Pilley and Chaser moved on to further impressive accomplishments exhibiting her ability to understand full sentences and to learn new behaviors by imitation. While this sounds like a head spinner even for humans, it was all fun and games for Chaser; the 1022 proper noun names were her toys that she logged into her long-term memory simply because she loved playing with them. Pilley states “play is an innate instinct for the dog and the expression of this behavior brings infinite joy to Chaser. Play not only strengthens our bond but it also builds her confidence; Chaser is a prime example, that when learning is fun, the flood gates open.” Amy Nicholson from MTV News states it brilliantly “There are two ways a mammal learns: step by step, reward-based obedience, and creative, open ended education. In human terms, it’s the difference between, ‘Plug this equation into your calculator,’ and ‘Here’s the logic behind calculus.’ The first is a robotic command and the second, “The Chaser Method” invites the dog to solve a problem. One simply rewards the right answer; the other inspires genius.”
Chaser has demonstrated her formally tested accomplishments on countless national and international television programs, capturing the hearts of dog lovers worldwide and charming them with her signature inquisitive tilt of the head. She bow-wow wowed her audience on Nova ScienceNOW with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, fetching “Darwin” a toy she had never heard the name of, nor seen before, amidst a collection of toys that she knew. In cognitive psychology this is called ‘fast mapping” and it is the way children learn.
Chaser was also able to win over the heart of Anderson Cooper during the shoot of her episode on 60 Minutes “The Smartest Dog in the World” as Cooper expressed his dismay in perhaps missing out with his own dog, as he snuggled on the floor with Chaser. Matt Lauer, Diane Sawyer and Betty White were also celebrities that were able to give Chaser requests that she aced in front of millions. She was scouted by Hollywood with the CBS hit show “Scorpion” who wanted Chaser to appear as a canine genius on the program, which was about geniuses.
Hollywood was not the only one to notice Chaser’s sparkle, Paris Match recognized she was a beauty with brains, in a four-page spread with stunning photographs by celebrity photographer Sebastien Micke and a classic Parisian quote by Olivier O’Mahony; “Chaser, known as the ‘smartest dog in the world’ is also one of the most beautiful dogs in the world.” She attracted the earthier tabloids garnering the cover of the “National Examiner” with her perky face next that of Charlie Sheen and Brad Pitt, as well as “The Daily Mail” right next to Katie Holms. The list of publications featuring her accomplishments include TIME, People Magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, New Scientist, Popular Science, Modern Dog, The Huffington Post, Scientific American etc.
Her undeniable charm in combination with that of her owner, John Pilley have been the debate among YouTubers, as to who is more adorable, Chaser or Pilley, as they comment on the trailer for their New York Times bestselling book co-authored with Hilary Hinzman, “Chaser, Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows 1000 Word.”
Pilley’s publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt reminds us that “Pilley’s groundbreaking approach has opened the door to a new understanding of animal intelligence, one that requires us to reconsider what actually goes on in a dog’s mind. Chaser’s achievements reveal her use of deductive reasoning and complex problem-solving skills to address novel challenges. He reveals the impact of effectively channeling a dog’s natural drives and incorporating the work of learning words and sentences into stimulating play. A devoted teacher who works with Chaser for hours each day, Pilley’s tenacity as a researcher is as inspiring as Chaser’s accomplishments. He has achieved more during his so-called retirement than many do in their entire career, and his work is making the scientific establishment rethink the limits and nature of animal intelligence. Pilley and Chaser’s story points us toward a new way of relating to our canine companions, one that takes into account our evolving understanding of the way animals and humans learn.”
This is echoed by Brian Hare, co-author of The Genius of Dogs. “Chaser is the most scientifically important dog in over a century. Her fascinating story reveals just how sophisticated a dog’s mind can be.”
Yet astonishingly, Chaser isn’t unique. The way she was taught is unique and Pilley’s training methods can be effectively used by dog lovers looking to unlock their dog’s potential. He firmly believed that there will be a “world of Chasers.” Pilley’s second book is being completed which is a step by step anthology of how you can teach your own dog just like Chaser, peppered with informative illustrations of her and further stories of her colorful escapades. Sadly, John passed away last year at the age of 89 after a brief arm wrestle with leukemia. In the last hours before his death, Chaser placed herself firmly in front of his bed, her head down, ears back, giving him her Border collie eye, releasing one sharp bark. She was not beckoning him to wake up, she was bidding him good-bye.
PBS posted a memorial tribute to Pilley, capsulizing her segment with DeGrasse Tyson which has fetched over 18,500,000 views. https://m.facebook.com/watch/?v=10155594937107196&_rdr
But none of this ever went to Chaser’s head as she has continued to live, love, and learn with the Pilley women who have been there from the very beginning, silently behind the scenes; Sally Pilley, Robin Pilley, and Deb Pilley Bianchi. They are actively continuing Chaser’s legacy with her second book as well as a series of children’s books, highlighting her eternal love affair with a blue racquetball. The memory of Chaser and Pilley’s accomplishments are currently being immortalized in downtown Spartanburg, SC her hometown, spearheaded by The Hub City Animal Project, with the installation of a bronze of Chaser outside the Children’s Museum in spring of 2020. Pilley’s footprints taken from a mold of his shoes, will be bronzed beside her. The downtown area is currently filled with colorful murals of Chaser as the Chamber of Commerce prepares for the installation and reveal of her bronze.(https://www.goupstate.com/news/20190516/statue-of-chaser-worlds-smartest-dog-coming-to-downtown) As recently as last month, Chaser has been spotted luring unlikely playmates in the downtown area with her blue ball and engaging with young learners at the Museum, implementing the philosophy of learning through play. She has become an ambassador for The Hub City Animal Project, an organization devoted to ending animal homelessness for which donations in her memory may be made. https://www.hubcityanimalproject.com/
John Pilley’s final thoughts emphasized that he learned infinitely more from Chaser than she did from him. “I’ve experienced firsthand the bottomless depth of devotion and teamwork possible with our family dog Chaser; Dogs are truly the unicorn of species when it comes to interacting with humans; they are magic in plain sight and I marvel at the undefinable magnetism that draws our two species together. Chaser shows us that science has over-looked and underestimated their unique genius and it is time to change the metaphor, change the paradigm and to recognize that humans are not the top of the intellectual ladder. What I have discovered with Chaser, was that by diving into that innate, interspecies bond, powerful things can happen, and untapped learning is given a fertile place to grow.”
Let the blue ball roll.
Contact: for photo requests and more information
Deb Pilley Bianchi
Elsevier Journal of Behavioral Processes
(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0376635710002925) The release of this scientific information immediately attracted the mainstream media which went globally viral in 2011 in over 72 languages, giving the world powerful confirmation that dogs are not only smarter than we think, but capable of much more. Duke University canine researcher and co-author of “The Genius of Dogs” Brian Hare has stated that “Chaser is the most scientifically important dog in over a century.”
Elsevier Journal of Learning and Motivation, published in 2013. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S002396901300026X?via%3Dihub). Since then, Pilley & Chaser have been featured in hundreds of domestic and international publications and television programs such as Nova ScienceNOW with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper, The Today Show with Matt Lauer, World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer, The BBC, New Science, Time, NYT, Paris Match, People, etc. Chaser was the subject of Pilley’s 2013 NY Times bestselling book about his journey with Chaser in 2013, co-authored by Hilary Hinzmann, “Chaser, Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows 1000 Words.” (https://www.amazon.com/Chaser-Unlocking-Genius-Knows-Thousand/dp/0544334590/ref=tmm_pap_title_0)
The world remembers Chaser & John Pilley
Chaser Obituary Press July 2019 Chaser: 4.28.04 - 7.23.19
Dr. John W. Pilley, Jr. - in memory 6.17.2018