q&a with Pilley
1. What's the best advice you can give to people about respecting and loving dogs?
Humanity must begin the shift to understanding that we are not the top of the intellectual ladder and that the evolution we have shared with cats and dogs is significant and deserving of not only love and respect, but of protection. They have chosen us, providing us with unconditional love as valued family members as well as invaluable service providers. Their positive contribution to society and our individual lives is immeasurably profound and they should never be looked upon as simply as “it’s just a dog.”
2. Can we ever fully understand what dogs think or feel?
We believe and research shows that all animals have a full range of emotions and feelings. Dogs and cats pay much more attention to our emotions than we do to theirs and all it takes is a little time and patience with observation to have a greater understanding of what your pet might be feeling.
3. What's the question owners ask you the most?
Well, its not necessarily a question, but the biggest comment we get is “I wish my dog could talk.” Our dogs speak to us all the time and with a little more patient observation, we can have a greater understanding of what they are trying to communicate. Chaser has an extensive understanding of the human language and this has been a tremendous benefit on both sides of the leash.
4. Do you think (or have come to realize) a dog can learn without human's help?
All animals learn without the help of humans, whether it is by observing other animals or trial and error, they are constantly learning. Our pets inherently understand words over time like “walk, bath, treat” because these words have value to them. Positive and negative. What we have been able to do with Chaser, is harness her love of play and teach her proper nouns. The names of her toys. These objects had value to her because she got to play with them and she gradually made the conceptual leap to understanding that objects had names. Once she had this “aha” moment, her learning fast tracked and she was able to learn things very rapidly similar to the way that children learn. We believe all dogs are capable of this.
5. On the other hand do you think owners are responsible for making their dogs smarter?
Owners have a responsibility to their dogs, similar to that of children. To keep them safe, loved and provided for. We also have the responsibility to pay close attention to the dog in front of us as far as temperament, instinct and what brings them joy. Every breed comes with over-generalized inherent traits, but all animals are individuals, and we need to recognize that. Chaser was sweet natured with an instinct to herd and her bliss was play. By utilizing all of these innate elements into her training - through play, she was able to soar in her learning. You can do the same with your dog, but we urge you to take time; observe and get to know your dog without making assumptions in comparing them to other dogs. This is critical for learning to take place.
6. What was the main conclusion you took from the results of your father's research started?
That dogs are infinitely smarter than we think! With Chaser, we have found her learning to be boundless and we hope that others will continue where our research left off to go even further with dogs. We believe the future will be filled with more “Chasers”.
7. Do you think animal rights will be one of the biggest concerns of society in the next years? If so, why? What has changed, in your opinion?
Oh gosh, we hope. It is of profound significance.
Currently in the US cats and dogs are considered property in the eyes of the law. Globally dogs are subjected to unthinkable torture. In light of our research with Chaser and now other researchers, we have found that dogs are capable of much more than we have given them credit for even in the past 100 years.
Animals have been living under the dark shadow of Rene Descartes proclamation in the 17th Century that dogs are “nothing but machines with blood.” This paradigm and the assumption that animals do not have creative thought or feelings must be abolished and laws re-written. We need to impart the message that cruelty to animals cannot be tolerated. They are deserving of our respect and protection.