John W. Pilley

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John W. Pilley (July 1, 1928 – June 17, 2018) was an American ethologist best known for his research in canine language learning with his Border collie, Chaser.[1][2] He was a researcher of canine cognition and language learning. He was a professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology at Wofford College and was an avid kayaker throughout his life.[3] Pilley was awarded an honorary Doctor of Psychology from Wofford College in 2016.[3][4]


Pilley was a graduate of Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas.[5] He studied at Pepperdine University and received his theological degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey.[3][5] He received master’s degrees from Stetson University and Memphis State University, where he also received his Ph.D. in psychology.[3]


Out of the media frenzy surrounding Chaser, Pilley was asked to write a book about his journey with Chaser and the dogs that came before her. In 2013, Pilley teamed with writer Hilary Hinzmann to pen the book, Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words,[6] which became a New York Times bestseller.[3]


  1. ^ "The Smartest Dog in the World". Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  2. ^ Pilley, John W. "Meet the Dog Who Knows 1,000 Words". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Wofford College - Dr. John Pilley, professor emeritus, passes away". Retrieved 2019-06-23.
  4. ^ Lavender, Chris. "John Pilley, trainer of the 'smartest dog in the world,' dies at 89". The Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  5. ^ a b "Wofford College - Faculty Gallery 7". Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  6. ^ W., Pilley, John (2013). Chaser : unlocking the genius of the dog who knows a thousand words. Boston. ISBN 9780544102576. OCLC 828890720.