I’m Pilley Bianchi, a canine expert and trainer, sister/teacher to Chaser the Border Collie, known internationally as “the smartest dog in the world” and author of the new book For the Love of Dog.I am the youngest daughter of Dr. John W. Pilley, Jr. the owner/teacher of Chaser the Border Collie, known internationally as “the smartest dog in the world.”

Chaser has the largest formal language learning of any animal in the world. I have been involved in my father’s work with Chaser as a producer, co-trainer, writer, and media consultant, and have collaborated on television, radio and print interviews on programs such as 60 Minutes, The Today Show, ABC World News Tonight, CBS Sunday Morning, Nat Geo Wild, and Discovery.I partnered behind the scenes with my father and his co-writer Hilary Hinzmann on their New York Times bestselling book Chaser, Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows 1000 Words (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

My new book For the Love of Dog: The Ultimate Relationship Guide with illustrator Calum Heath was just published by Princeton Architectural Press on Aug 22. It is based on Chaser, but is devoted to offering insight, inspiration and information regarding “everything dog.” It explores not only what we can teach dogs, but more importantly what we have to learn from dogs.I am an active member of International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). Contributor to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

Finally, I am the Executive Producer/Founder of The Chaser Initiative, dedicated to educating Children (K-12) about the power of play and power of praise (Pop Pop.) By bringing dogs into the classroom, children are exposed to discovering the legacy of John Pilley and Chaser’s method of learning — play. Through the Chaser Initiative, we aim to nurture partnerships with national and international canine organizations educating their constituents in teaching dogs’ language through play, with a deeper dive into the significance of our unique inter-species relationship.

Ask me anything about:Chaser herself. Was she really a genius dog? Can my dog learn like Chaser? Creating bonds / relationship building / how dogs perceive the world and communicate, and also, my new book. For the Love of Dog, the Ultimate Relationship Guide.

Thank you everyone for participating - this has been so much fun and wonderful to get to know the reddit dog community. Please check out my new book with illustrator Calum Heath, For the Love of Dog https://smarturl.it/9781797223308, and keep in touch via my social media @pilleybianchi, @chaserthebordercollie. I would love to hear from you!



Comments: 260 • Responses: 93  • Date: 

strawbarry9238 karma

Is it really true that dogs can't be spiteful? I've met some very smart dogs that definitely make me question that sentiment. One dog specifically would always purposefully poop on a family member's bed after he left for work, and only that family member and always after he left home for a significant portion of the day.

pilleybianchi50 karma

Wow, clearly your dogs behavior had some degree of thought! I've witness this too. I would hesitate to call it "spite" but dogs definitely have a wide array of emotions and research indicates that they understand equity...... So, I would say the proof is in the poop!


I missed a walk with my aussie last week, and he dug my swim goggles out of my bag and destroyed them. Not spite, but definitely retribution.

IRemovedMyOldAccount12 karma

Tbh the aussie people i know would do the same

pilleybianchi8 karma

The Australians I know could exhibit this behavior!

pilleybianchi5 karma

I wouldn't argue with that.

SirHovaOfBrooklyn1 karma

My dog pees outside of his pee (and only in 2 same spots) if we leave him too long. I feel like it's his way of getting back at us lol.

pilleybianchi1 karma

He's definitely sending you a message!

DashingMustashing-19 karma

You don't happen to live near Amber Heard?

pilleybianchi-1 karma

I don't know, she might live in my hood.

Whisgo27 karma

Chaser's ability has been a huge inspiration. Have you looked at the research being done by UCSD https://cclab.ucsd.edu/2021/06/15/97/ for using Augmented Interspecies Communication?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this. I've been teaching my dogs to use buttons (if they want to) to communicate and have seen amazing results specifically with my sheprador. For example this morning she asked to "cuddle eat" which we interpreted as eating on the couch next to me. We have a new puppy and the puppy has been a bit overwhelming when the adults get their food. So our shep has been a little anxious to eat her food in her usual spot. Her ability to communicate her wants has been so wonderful to our relationship.

pilleybianchi22 karma

Thank you so much!

Yes, I'm very familiar with button movement. Alexis Devine who is the human to Bunny, Otter and Tenrec is very good friend. Any way to have improve inter-species communication is valuable. Go for it! Also, dogs learn from each other by watching and imitating. Keep me posted on their learning!!

Whisgo11 karma

Oh wonderful. I'm acquainted with Alexis as part of the study and involvement in fluent pet development. I was unable to be as involved and didn't have much time to devote to social media or the study due to other obligations at the time. That said, we've been using buttons with our household for about 4 years. Our oldest doesn't really prefer using them unless we've missed her native communication efforts. We're starting to model use with the new puppy. Our shep is the primary user and using them has been so incredibly beneficial to reducing problematic behaviors like attention barking - she's a very vocally expressive shep.

pilleybianchi6 karma

That's great!

bimches27 karma

Hi! Do you think it's possible to raise a dog(from a young age) to be more affectionate or is that something that's solely determined by a dog's nature?

pilleybianchi41 karma

Wow, out of the gate - this is a great question. I believe in many cases that affection takes time. Chaser was not a touchy-feely dog and was into cuddles on HER time, not ours. So when you are loving on your pup, pay attention to their body language and see if it's reciprocal. But keep that door open!

GladDogsOfTheGrave9 karma

Yup. My little dog loves affection in general, but when it's not on her terms she sends out a growl. I learned pretty quickly that it's up to her if she wants to receive my affections.

That doesn't mean she's the one who gets to initiate affection. It has to be balanced, I don't have to respond to every inclination she feels. We are independent beings, but we love to show affection to one another when the time is right.

pilleybianchi7 karma

Excellent that you pay attention. Well done!

GladDogsOfTheGrave1 karma

I've also noticed that my doggy takes affection much more readily when she's being talked to. Some dogs appreciate the human voice more than others, and sometimes they almost require some vocal feedback to encourage affection.

I've never met a dog that didn't have a surprisingly softer attitude when spoken to in low and soft (sing-songy) tones.

Dogs will stare at you but they generally don't like being stared back at. This changes when they're spoken to in gentle tones. And it's okay to make facial expressions too.

pilleybianchi2 karma

Oh yes! I heartily agree!!

EventArgs3 karma

I feel we anthropomorphize our emotions and expect the same degree of recognition when it comes to affection and our dogs. Some dogs may show it through obedience and attention, others through just being near you. Every dog is a different little being and to feel that we expect that we should see affection from them for how we treat each other is really nice to be honest. We know that they are our most sincere friends.

pilleybianchi2 karma

This is true.

boblinquist26 karma

Do you think we humans anthropomorphise dogs too much, or do you think they have been with us so long that their human-like behaviors are really as we see them? Sometimes I really believe my dog is a human in a dogs body, and I have to remind myself hes an animal, and I'm wanting something to be real more than it is. Do you think its unhelpful to treat them too much as human equals?

pilleybianchi41 karma

Thanks for this question. Dogs are the only species on the planet that has a shared an evolutionary path with us for 40,000 years. Dogs are very in tune with our emotions and vibes, and they definitely a wide a range of emotions similar to ours. They are our equals. We have chosen to bring them into our homes, so they are deserving of our respect, love and care. Obviously you have a pup that you reading properly - so please feel free to continue to anthropomorphise!

bhfink19 karma

Hi! I’m a local dog trainer who’s passionate about communication - and I show chasers video with Neil degrasse Tyson to EVERYONE.

Have there been any other examples of dogs who can follow the process of elimination the way chaser can? Have there been further studies specifically on the aspect of inference ?


Do you think chaser would have communicated well with buttons considering her ability to retain vocab ? I feel like she would have surpassed everyone currently using them by far.

It’s mind blowing and every time I see it her video - it ignites a huge excitement within me; that dogs really can learn it all.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to the public! You’re incredible !

pilleybianchi16 karma

Thank you so much for the positive reinforcement! My father and Chaser would have certainly been supportive of the buttons and she would have driven us crazy pushing them! What was remarkable about my dad and Chaser, is that she learned concepts. Learning builds upon learning, which gives our dogs the opportunity to use their beautiful minds. So that she was able to connect the dots very rapidly in learning the names of people, places and things - like trees, cars, bushes.

At the end of his life, my dad was teaching Chaser with verbal cues and visual cues in concert with imitation, so that she could learn very complex behaviors on one trial alone. She could also understand abstract words like "again, repeat, another." So this is the value of his methods that we outline in our book. Using these in concert with buttons, is golden. :)

bhfink10 karma

Thank you so much for your incredible reply.

I also often try to switch up some of the words I use, and put a lot of emphasis on my body language to reinforce that even though it may be a different word, it means the same or a similar cue. For example: I find that “wait” and “stay” have similar action, but I use “wait” to let the dog know that the reinforcement/reward is to come soon, (putting the bowl down, putting a treat on the nose etc) whereas stay is more in the aspect of safety, and should be held until the release word, regardless of length of time, and without expected immediate reward. Thanks again for your answer, such a big fan and will definitely be getting this book.

pilleybianchi4 karma

Well done and please keep me posted on your work!

nanoox9 karma

The aforementioned video: Neil DeGrasse Tyson with Chaser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omaHv5sxiFI

pilleybianchi1 karma

ah! Thank you for sharing this! Neil. was. amazing.

TheJuniorControl18 karma

How do you recommend framing your mind to deal with the inevitable loss of a beloved pet?

pilleybianchi37 karma

Like my great grandmother used to say "When you bring a dog into your home, one day you will get a broken heart, they don't live forever."

Grief is big one and we highlight this in my book. Dogs live short, beautiful lives giving us ample opportunity to experience the purest forms of love and loss. This is a gift and love is always worth the risk.

pilleybianchi4 karma

Thank you!!

eye_snap4 karma

What gives me comfort is to know they lived a long, happy life where they were loved and surrounded by family. Hopefully without suffering much at the end.

I lost my cat and I couldn't stop crying for days but ultimately, she passed away in a way we could all hope to go, painlessly, of old age and surrounded by family.

My dog is young yet, but the way I prepare for her passing is by trying my hardest to provide these conditions, happy long life, loved and with family. So when the time comes I can tell myself that she had the best that is possible.

pilleybianchi1 karma

Yes, and live in the moment. Gratitude equals glory.

bringbackfax10 karma

I have young kids and I’ve heard mixed reviews about whether it’s okay to get a dog now, or whether I should wait until all the kids are older (would likely be in a decade or so). What are your thoughts?

pilleybianchi25 karma

What a great question - it really does depend on the dog and your kids. Some dogs are super friendly and others don't care for kids. Chaser LOVED children because they were the best playmates. There are advantages to puppies vs rescues. But it really depends on your kids and the individual dog. I believe it's always great to grow up around animals. It teaches us empathy and responsibility.

Own-Veterinarian-90110 karma

My dog nestles up to someone wanting to be pet, but growls at them as soon as they touch him? What could this mean? Thanks

pilleybianchi20 karma

This is slippery territory - I've experienced this as well. The first to do is make sure the dog isn't in pain and take them to the vet. What I have done is simply let the dog sit there quietly and know "that I'm here, but respect your wish to not touch."

pilleybianchi4 karma

This is a tough one and can be slippery. first is to check if your pup has pain - take them to the vet and let the vet see whassup. What I have done with dogs like this in the past, is simply let them stay beside me and I don't touch. I let them know that we can sit together and I'll them alone.

Theheck19 karma

What are some ways to win a dog's affection without food (when meeting a new dog or babysitting)?

pilleybianchi15 karma

Great question! We used play with Chaser. Play WITH your dog. Have a toy to toss, hide, catch and chase. That will build your bond. Treats are generally too distracting. We have methods to show you what to do in our book but it all comes down to positive reinforcement and positive engagement.

bhfink14 karma

I love this. I always tell people that ONLY tossing a toy isn’t enough. You need to engage with the act of play - the second you zone out your dog takes note. Even when on walks, if I check my phone I feel the difference in our relationship during the walk, there will be more zigzagging, more sniff stops etc. but when I’m totally engaged, it’s like we’re one person split into to bodies lol. Your answers are so great.

pilleybianchi3 karma

Thank you so much! And yes, the minute Chaser would see my phone come out, she would plop down in full fledge hang-dog mode!

claudia_grace8 karma

We are fostering a pair of senior dogs. The female, an Australian Cattle dog, likes to pull on walks and has a hard time focusing while walking. She's distracted by almost everything. We've switched her to a harness and have done the trickle feeding, and are seeing some improvement. Are there other things we could try?

We've also noticed that she fights with her "brother" when we're out of the room. We don't know what precipitates this, as we're not there, but when we come into the room, he looks scared and she looks contrite. What's a good way to handle this?

Thanks for any insights!

pilleybianchi19 karma

First, thank you for fostering senior dogs. You are angels on a worthy mission! With older dogs, the pulling can be difficult to modify. I've done two things, that gradually work. First - if she wants to run, I run with her, let her have a voice. Then I keep treats in my pocket and keep the lead closer to my body with the soft cue "with me, with me" And give her a treat to reinforce that sh'es even paying attention to me. I wouldn't walk her where there are distractions or other dogs, so that you can really focus on her. If there are approaching people, cross the street.

As far as the fights. I would avoid have these two pups alone in the same room. There can be tangles out of our sight.

claudia_grace7 karma

Thank you for the advice! We'll try that on the walks.

As for the fights and keeping them apart, we can do that and I'll pass the information along to the organization we're fostering with. It may mean that they're placed separately. It surprises me that they fight considering they've grown up together, but maybe they've just never really liked each other all that much. They don't seem to have much affection for each other.

pilleybianchi9 karma

You are absolutely correct - they should not be placed together. Chaser did not like other dogs. Some dogs don't!

sweatysack6 karma

Have you ever worked with an American Akita? If so what are your thoughts one the breed? I have a male and and has been the most amazing dog and most stubborn haha.

pilleybianchi10 karma

I have never worked with an Akita - just huskies and they wore my butt out. They were escape artists.

Amazing and stubborn work for me!!

gingerellasroot5 karma

Hi! Is there any way to train or encourage my husky to be less excitable by my cat? I know having them cuddle is a stretch but he definitely doesn’t understand his size or my cat’s play. My cat is too docile to truly swipe at him to help him learn boundaries.

pilleybianchi4 karma

It really depends on how long they have known each other. I would think that the cat would eventually teach the husky to not get so overworked. And if the cat is not running, the husky won't get wound up.

Keep an eye on them, sometimes huskies can be a little over-zealous in their play with another critter.

UnamusedJester5 karma

My 2 year old pomsky seems to think the only place to poop is in our front living room, she pees outside just fine - but when it comes to pooping, she will ONLY go in the front room on the hard floor. I have tried a slew of training tips including tethering, crate training, redirection, and nothing seems to sway her. If I leash her and bring her outside when I know she has to go, she will hold it for however long until we come inside and sometimes immediately goes on the floor. We clean up with enzyme spray every time. Any thoughts or tips?! Thanks so much!

Edit to add: we adopted her 6 months ago, her previous mom has since said she never had a poop accident in their home, but did occasionally have a peepee accident.

pilleybianchi6 karma

Hum, my first question would be to take her to the vet. This sounds like it's an anxiety driven behavior rather than a scent related one. If you could try to keep her outside to poop and really reinforce what a good dog she is after she poops, give a nimble and praise, that might be a starting point.

UnamusedJester3 karma

We have taken her to the vet, they didnt find any health related reasons that she would be doing this. I have been hesitant to contact a trainer in my area as most near me use aversive methods and i do not want to make the behavior worse - i will keep trying the approach of keeping her outside to poop with praise and treats upon completion, if we ever do get the poops outside! Thank you!

pilleybianchi5 karma

Good job going to the vet and confirming its not a physical problem. Please do not bring in a trainer to use any aversive methods. That will not fix the problem and most likely create obstacles. Modifying a negative or anxious behavior takes time. Just like when my kid was potty training - it took longer for him than his peers. You'll get there. :)

Ornery-Apartment-3095 karma

In the UK the government are making preparations to ban XL Bully dogs. What do you think of this move? What do you think of breed specific banning? How much do you think dog behaviour is breed/genetics Vs the owner?

pilleybianchi5 karma

I think it's really sad for this dog and I believe disreputable breeders and early life owners of these animals are the problem. These dogs are prematurely separated from litter mates so they don't learn bite control, or proper play etiquette with their siblings, which sets them up to fail from the get go. It becomes a dissociative disorder.

Then the people who purchase these poor pups, use them as bait, fight or security dogs - which doesn't end well and they go to rescues, get adopted and they are SUPER SWEET animals, but they continue to be unpredictable dogs. Very sad.

It's a catch 22.

thehazer3 karma

Hello, we adopted our border collie when he was two, from a family friend who needed to rehome him. We were told he was not a “fan” of ceiling fans, and that is verrry true. If they are on even in a different house he will freak out. So ummm any idea what that’s about?

pilleybianchi3 karma

This is a real head scratcher. Another example of what one dogs loves, freaks out another. I would avoid using the ceiling fan. Or is there a lower speed he can tolerate? Perhaps have him in another room and turn on the fan, then reinforce his calm reaction with some play or nibble.

newnlost3 karma

I have 2 rescues. A spitz who we think is about 3 and a min pin who is 12 and is very ill (nasal carcinoma). I don’t know why the spitz is constantly licking the older boys Weinber. It drives me nuts. Also he tends to lick the older boys pee as well. Any idea what’s going on here?

pilleybianchi4 karma

Well, dogs in ancient times were honored for the healing powers in their saliva. There's some science going on here and your Spitz is literally picking up on some abnormalities in the other pups. Just to be sure, I'd take him to the vet to make sure he's not licking the lemonade out of a deficiency.

Maria Goodavage has a brilliant book "Doctor Dogs" that unravels the remarkable work that dogs are producing as far as disease detection.

newnlost2 karma

Not sure what you mean…. But the vet has checked him out and he is fine. Also… vet says it’s safe except after chemo 4 days have to jee them apart.

pilleybianchi1 karma

Oh good, that you check with your vet. Dogs lick other dogs body parts because they detect an abnormality. Licking is like salve to put on a wound.

quienquiereleche3 karma

Hey there! Big fan of Chaser and your dad here :) I just finished the book a few weeks ago and thought it was amazing! Thank you for this AMA!

I adopted a border collie from the SPCA 4 months ago and I'm trying to follow in your dad's footsteps regarding training. My dog was neglected by her previous owners as she had no clue about anything when I first got her (not potty trained, not leash trained, followed no commands, no recall, nothing). So far, we've made great progress with commands and I'm now trying to stimulate the problem-solving part of her brain by naming 3 of her toys and asking her to bring them to me. We've been at it for several months but I'm finding she's not completely "getting it", so to speak → whenever I ask for a specific name, she just picks up a random toy to see if that'll produce a good response from me. So my question is - how hard is it for a dog who was not properly stimulated as a puppy to analyze problem-solving type play? I know your dad was Chaser's first guide and was highly stimulated from the get-go. Do you think this sort of training could be achieved for a dog that did not have a great start in life? Thank you for everything and I will definitely be buying your book soon!

pilleybianchi4 karma

Wow, thank you so much for all of the above!

Give her some time. When you are teaching the name of a toy - don't have any other toys around, so that she cannot make a mistake. We have a tutorial in my new book on how to teach your dog the names of objects through errorless learning. If she's not getting it, back up to simplify, simplify, simplify. Also are you playing with her? Chaser loved to play hide and seek. And these games reinforce the name of the toy. Good job!! Learning takes time and repetition!

meothe3 karma

Should I teach my bichon frise dogs how to communicate with the buttons?

pilleybianchi1 karma

go for it!

Office_Zombie3 karma

I have a Bernese Mountain Dog (5) and a Terrier mix (3).

Normally, they both listen to me really well - I'm in charge - but I respect them also and have never punished them beyond lowering my voice. Regardless, I cannot get them to stop losing their shit whenever someone walks by the house and the front door is open. (Or when anyone comes home.)

I know they are smart; the Berner will bark at me when the Terrier needs to go out and they listen when I tell them to do something, including staying away from food I may drop. (And I listen to them when they are trying to tell me something beyond, "Please give me a pig's ear.")

Can I retrain them? Or is it too late?

EDIT: I should mention, they are trained to the point I can take food out of their mouths without fear.

pilleybianchi2 karma

Barking can be a major bummer. I'm not well versed in modifying this behavior, but if they have been doing it for a long time, it ain't gonna be easy. Perhaps when they bark at something, you can slowly integrate a soft "no bark, no bark" and immediately offer an alternative behavior as a bait and switch.

Far-Tumbleweed-78553 karma

I have Australian Shepherds and it seems that all the reds,merle and tri, have a higher drive/a little more crazy than a black tri or blue merle, is there any evidence to support this?

pilleybianchi3 karma

Wow, thanks for sharing this. I was reading about this recently with red merles and there is a bit of scientific evidence.

While red merles are striking - there has been some over-breeding that has been negatively impacting their genetics. Yes, a little more crazy has been diagnosed, but I can't immediately recall the study.

pilleybianchi3 karma

As a note to everyone - I have ADORED all of your amazing questions and greatly appreciate your dedication to your pups.

Please check out our book and keep in touch with me!!

www.pilleybianchi.com has all my info.

Thank you for such a lovely afternoon.

oxox Pill

ImpeachedPeach3 karma


I've recently been looking to get a dog with a job, I feel canine unemployment is at an all time high... That being said, how would one go about teaching a shepherding dog (Aussie in this case) to keep the chickens on our property?

pilleybianchi9 karma

First of all, I'd have your Aussie fill out an application and see if they are qualified for the job.

Second, I'd prolly recommend a fence for the chickens.

CallMeMsWaffles3 karma

Hello!! Massive fan here, really enjoyed reading all your replies!!

Wondering if dogs like the companionship of other dogs or crave it? So many times I see people get another dog for their dog, to help with separation anxiety or just to have a playmate. Sometimes it works out really well but the dogs are bonded to each other as opposed to their humans. Other times there’s dog on dog aggression. What are your thoughts?

pilleybianchi2 karma

Thank you!

It truly depends upon the dog. They are all individuals, and sometimes dogs haven't engaged with other dogs and it's just not their "thing." We have to pay attention to what to identify the preferences of our pups.

esssbombs3 karma

Do we know how dogs perceive our relationships with them? I know that they know that me = scratches, food, walks, playtime, etc, but do they have the capability to understand that it’s more than just a caretaker role? I need to make sure they know I am obsessed with them and love them to death lol.

And what is my dog dreaming about all the time? Can her doggy brain create new scenarios or nightmares like mine can, or is she just reliving rabbit chasing scenarios?

pilleybianchi6 karma

What a great question! Dogs do have perceptions of every relationship they have. They have likes, dislikes, quirks, unique preferences. And whatever you can do to build that bond - like what you are doing - reinforces the connection that your dog has with you. I don't think you need to worry if you dog knows that you love them to death. :)

We found that Chaser dreamed a lot about running and chasing things.

girlscoutcookies052 karma

Whats the dumbest dog in the world? Not being mean. Just curious

pilleybianchi1 karma

I hear you! I don't know any dumb dogs, but I know some pretty clueless humans....

shortnsweet332 karma

Hi!! Thanks for doing this AMA and for all you and Chaser have contributed to the dog world!

Do you have any suggestions on transitioning a dog from tennis balls to other balls such as chuckit balls or any other option that’s better for their teeth and more durable? My dog (best guess GSD/pit) has crazy tennis ball drive, especially for one specific type of tennis ball that squeaks (the most obnoxious squeaking sound - she truly goes wild for these and will not let you sit still if it rolls under the couch or goes over a fence).

She’s pretty good about bringing it back because she wants you to throw it for her nonstop 😅 But, she often puts holes into in on accident when carrying/squeaking them and sometimes will try to de-fuzz a tennis ball if she takes a break. Thankfully she doesn’t eat any pieces. I mostly just put the tennis ball up when we’re done but sometimes you forget.

I’ve tried more durable options like chuckits or kong balls. No such luck with her picking them up even! Her toy preferences in general are a bit selective. Other than tennis balls, she likes carrying her plush toys/lambchops or doing puzzle toys and the occasional tug of war.

Do you have any ideas or suggestions on introducing a new type of ball and building engagement and excitement around it?

pilleybianchi3 karma

It sounds like you are paying lots of attention to what makes her click (or squish) and what doesn't, which is great.

Chaser loved blue racquet balls that she stole from the Wofford College racquet ball court. She wasn't obsessed with squeezing unless the toy or ball squeaked. And she was pretty gentle with all of her toys outside of a tug toy. Which of course is controversial now, but tugging is an innate behavior that doesn't need to be extinguished if it's not a problem and the tug isn't too agreesive. It's all about moderation and common sense.

I would suggest you play hide and seek with her. Put the toy in another room and see if she can find. You can use "yes" and "no" as cues if she's on the right track. This is a great way to also, just utilize the word "no" as a cue to stop what you're doing and not have negative connotations.

midnight_rebirth2 karma

On a personal level, what are some of your favorite films?

pilleybianchi6 karma

Ah! I'm a sucker for Pride and Prejudice. I'm not a huge fan of animal movies, because I get sucked in and boo hoo. Then just want to come home and hug my cats - which they are not terribly fond of.....

VeraLumina2 karma

Pilley, off topic here, but P and P is my favorite as well. We recently went to Chatsworth in England, that served as Pemberly. You have to got to the Peak District, stay in town and visit the mansion.

pilleybianchi2 karma

Ah, you are hitting my sweet spot!

rbmerritt62 karma

How do I get my frenchie to stop reacting to the TV? I’ve had lots of dogs but never known one to see as much on the tv as this one does. Even animated or puppet animals he freaks out about. Lunges at the tv barking. Gets old fast.

pilleybianchi4 karma

hum, it sounds like your pup might need to get out more and experience the real world. It's quite extraordinary that some pets really respond to t.v.'s and computers. Does he get to engage with other animals very often?

akersmacker2 karma

Hello Pilley, thank you for doing this. Question about electronic collars

16 month old goldendoodle, great temperament though a bit wild at times. Awesome companion, especially now that I am living alone.

I live semi-rurally on 10 acres, coyotes do too, and got an electronic remote collar that beeps, vibrates, and has variable shock capacity. I use the beep at times when he doesn't come right away, then the vibrate. Usually works. BUT, I want to keep him safe and will hit the shock part when he gets too far away when chasing a scent. He gets too focused and will not acknowledge being called. Also use the shock if he starts to chase a car. I don't want to do these things, and it isn't a power struggle, but I just want to keep him safe.

Thoughts on using the collar, and how to use it? Compared to invisible fences? My daughter hates it, and I am sure some will think me cruel. But the pup is happy as can be!

pilleybianchi7 karma

You know, this is a tough one. Safety is non-negotiable for our babies welfare, but there are better ways to go about it.

I don't encourage or endorse shock collars or electronic fences. As you've already experienced, once the dog is engaged in something that excites them, they are in the "poor decision" zone and forced to make a choice "I'll get a shock, but it doesn't last forever and this chase is so much fun."

We also talk about this in the book, so it takes some patience and time - but you essentially want to establish a solid recall as well as competing behavior that will be satisfying for your dog.

Chaser had to learn NOT to chase cars and critters, so she gradually learned that when she heard the word car or even heard a car, she would go sit on the side of the road. She was also taught to never cross a road, unless she had the cue "cross over."

It takes time, but it's worth it!

mondo_blunt2 karma

I have a dog that I got at 8 months old and he was not well acclimated to people or other animals. He’s friendly but when he sees new people he keeps exciting himself to no end. Is there a way I can train him to be more calm when I have company?

Edit: I realize 8 months old is totally normal for a dog to behave that way. He’s just a larger breed so him jumping on everyone isn’t as cute as it sounds. Also at this point he’s about a year and a half old.

pilleybianchi3 karma

Funny thing about how cute behaviors as puppies turn into "owie's" as adults.

The first step to take is sort of easy. Ignore him and turn your back on him. Also, the hand gesture of an open palm, like you're the school crossing guard, is effective before he gets too close to jump. Softly reinforce this verbally with "no jump, Rover, no jump."

So give your friends a heads up to help you out when they arrive on how to respond. I've had jumpy dogs that responded to this immediately. This is a jumping off point. Pun intended. :)

DoctorMental24242 karma

Any advice for a 1 year old Labrador (F) that destroys home every time she is alone?

pilleybianchi2 karma

This is not so easy and most likely has multiple layers, which we talk about in the book. BUT, check out Annie Phenixes book. This is anxiety driven and there are solutions. Good luck with your pup. https://www.amazon.com/Positive-Training-Aggressive-Reactive-Dogs/dp/1621871983/ref=sr\_1\_1\_sspa?crid=7T3CI1PG9YK6&keywords=annie+phenix+books&qid=1696459061&sprefix=annie+phenix%2Caps%2C123&sr=8-1-spons&sp\_csd=d2lkZ2V0TmFtZT1zcF9hdGY&psc=1

tehKreator2 karma

I hand fed my puppy and he is incredibly smart and listens to more than 150 words as well. I think it help form our bond. What do you think about hand feeding ?

My technique would be to grab some food form his bowl, ask for a trick, give food on trick completion or trick attempt. I would talk a lot with him and guide him while giving him food.

pilleybianchi2 karma

It's lovely that you have such a significant bond! Well done!

I would give him more agency to eat as he would like. It can be frustrating to not be able to "dig in" and enjoy his food independently.

tehKreator2 karma

Yes we also did that after a few hand fed + tricks combos. The rest would be “good boy, here’s the rest of your bowl” and he would enjoy it.

In insight (he is 4 yr old now) he does have a lack of interest in food and more the actual play around it and praise he has

pilleybianchi1 karma

That's great, good job!


What is the best way to train an older (but not old!) dog to handle being in a city apartment by himself for a few hours after growing up in a suburban home where he was almost never alone?

I find that he is calm by himself when it’s quiet but when there are noises (and there are so many of them in a city), he cries the ENTIRE time.

And how long have you seen that training typically take before it’s successful?

pilleybianchi2 karma

I'm hearing this issue a lot. I"m so sorry. There's a lot of separation anxiety going on. I would reference Annie Phenix's books.

pilleybianchi2 karma

Hi Guys! It has been an incredible 4 hours with you all and your wonderful questions! I'm signing off for now and will check out new questions later.

Thanks so much!


loonachic2 karma

Can dogs have depression?

pilleybianchi3 karma

Oh yes, for sure.

quienquiereleche2 karma

Very sorry if this is a difficult question and I totally get it if you don't want to reply. I know your dad passed before Chaser and I was just curious to know what happened to Chaser after that? They were so incredibly bonded and your dad was in Chaser's life 24/7 that it must have crushed her. Did you notice changes in her behaviour? How was this handled? Did she ever not want to follow instructions from any of you? And maybe on a less personal note - how do you handle the loss of one member on a highly-bonded pair (human or not)?

pilleybianchi2 karma

Thank you for asking this question.

Chaser was truly a family dog and my dad was sick for about 6 weeks before he passed, so Chaser was transitioned as he declined. She was a very social dog and that was a good thing after he was gone. She lived with my mom and my sister. I write about this in my new book and there was a goose bump moment between dad and Chaser hours before he passed.

ajcates2 karma

is it possible for dogs to have a prejudice against people with a beard?. My friend has a husky that always barks at me and the only reason we can think of is my beard.

pilleybianchi2 karma

Oh interesting. I'm not sure what your energy is or what you smell like, but it could be the beard.

BTW - I like beards. :)

Phixionion2 karma

Can an old dog still be potty trained?

pilleybianchi1 karma

For sure, unless they have incontinent issues. Old dogs can pick up a lot. :)

PenisBlubberAndJelly2 karma

After putting the energy into training a border like Chaser how do you find the energy to do it all over again? Each dog I feel like I'm progressively more slack.

I'm on my second Border Collie, wonderful dogs first time around I put every waking moment I had available into training and he was just the absolute best but I felt like it put a lot of pressure on him to constantly be waiting for commands or to perform. Second time around I was like I don't have the energy and maybe I'll just let this guy be a bit more of a dog. Ton of personality and of course a little bit less command word obsessed.

pilleybianchi3 karma

You know, this is very sincere question that I truly appreciate. Each personal experience with a dog transfers to the animals that follow. I interpret “being more slack” with allowing a little more agency with your dog.

This is a good thing. Enjoy your dog.

gracias-totales2 karma

Do you think dogs have any concept of different languages or cultures? I adopted my dog from the country I live in now and I talk to her in English so now she is bilingual for some words. But I always wonder if she can distinguish between me (a foreigner) and local men or has any sense of the difference.

pilleybianchi1 karma

Very good question.

We found with Chaser, that she understood the scientific concept of "one to many" and "many to one."

This means that she knew that the word "treat" encompassed many different foods. One word - several options. She also knew that my mother was known as Sally, Mom, & Nanny. One person - several names.

She was also given cues for testing by multiple people as well as impromptu performances on film and television. Most notably with Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Anderson Cooper. She aced all of these requests despite the novelty of the people, accents and environment.

Dogs connect these dots all the time, they are constantly listening, so yes, I believe your pup could understand the above. :)

Superb_Board18482 karma

Do you have any advice for using sniffing as a reward for a dog who is not food, toy, or praise motivated?

pilleybianchi2 karma

Scent is an extremely valuable experience for your pup. So I would start just by letting them sniff all around the neighborhood on walks and when they stop to smell something, reinforce that with some soft praise and word association. "oh good sniff!" "yes, sniff, sniff," "sniff flower", "sniff tree."

Then, you can start with presenting a specific treat - let her smell it and then hide it plain site and ask her to find it. Then under something, then outside.

Good luck!!

DiscombobulatedBabu2 karma

Best AMA I've read! Thanks for doing this. Do you have a favourite memory of Chaser?

pilleybianchi2 karma

Wow, thank you!

What a lovely question. She was really my little sister and I have so many memories it's hard to choose. What I loved most was to see my father and Chaser do their thing on film shoots. I never quite knew what these two would do, but it always made me smile.

driverofracecars2 karma

I just adopted a blue heeler cattle dog and she’s deaf as a stone. Like, profoundly deaf, cannot hear a thing. What tips do you have for training a high energy dog that can’t hear praise and doesn’t stand still long enough to receive physical praise?

pilleybianchi2 karma

Wow, thank you so much for going out on a limb for this pup. Hand signals are the key. She will be very visually driven, so be super clear in what you are requesting of her. I'll ask my friends for more resources. You can also reach me at [email protected]

watermelonkiwi2 karma

Do you have any advice for the owner of a Jack Russel that has become somewhat reactive/protection on leash towards other dogs? The problem is if I just let him go up to every dog, he's fine, but if I hesitate, or stop to ask the owner if it's ok for him to greet the dog, or put a little tension on the leash, he takes it as a sign that it isn't a relaxed situation and becomes reactive. I'm pretty sure he think I want him to be unfriendly, and thinks that's what I'm communicating to him, even though that's the opposite of what I want. I've tried the advice of just keeping him away from every dog, giving him treats if a dog is around and having him wait till the dog is gone. This is really impractical and seems to be making things worse, I've taken to having to pull him away from friendly dogs, and it's started to translate to him being less friendly off leash as well. That's the only advice I can seem to find for the situation, basically don't let your dog go up to any dog, distract him with treats as soon as a dog is in the distance. This seem really overboard and unnecessary. He never snaps at other dogs, just growls and acts unfriendly, and keeping him away from every dog just makes it worse. I ideally would like a situation where he can go up to dogs and greet them if the owner of the other dog is ok with it, and will go away from the dog if the owner is not ok with. Right now he pulls to get to any dog, and if I don't walk up without hesitation, he then becomes reactive. I'm certain it was me pulling him away from dogs originally that created this behavior, but now I'm not sure how to correct it. Online advice, as I've said, has been unhelpful.

pilleybianchi1 karma

I'm so sorry that you've hit a wall with constructive advise. This is truly not my wheel house, but I feel confident if you check out Annie Phenix's book you might find some relief. She's amazing and been through all of what you are experiencing. https://www.amazon.com/Positive-Training-Aggressive-Reactive-Dogs/dp/1621871983/ref=sr\_1\_1\_sspa?crid=7T3CI1PG9YK6&keywords=annie+phenix+books&qid=1696459061&sprefix=annie+phenix%2Caps%2C123&sr=8-1-spons&sp\_csd=d2lkZ2V0TmFtZT1zcF9hdGY&psc=1

Wishfer2 karma

Question we all ask...

Whose a good boy?

Whose a good girl?

pilleybianchi2 karma


rheetkd2 karma

What are your thoughts on Bunny the dog who uses buttons to speak and create language not just understand it?

pilleybianchi2 karma

I love Bunny and her buttons!

cromagnongod1 karma

My male poodle keeps peeing on my bed and clothes if I leave him alone in the house. Is it revenge or what?

pilleybianchi1 karma

It's anxiety related. It's possible he's left alone longer than he can tolerate, or it could happen as soon as you close the front door. I'd recommend taking your clothes off the bed and/or covering it with a sheet of plastic that you can get at the hardware store.

Start there.

cupidstella1 karma

Hi I'm not sure if you will see this, but we have had six total retired racing Greyhounds four male fosters and two girls that we've adopted. As we know Greyhounds have their own odd behavioral issues due to their race track upbringing... our youngest female Greyhound is very prey reactive to the point where she will lock on to any beeping or squeaking sound within the house and all her attention will be stuck on it. We've come a long way with desensitization, but do you have any advice for families who are also dealing with this type of hyper fixation behavior?

pilleybianchi1 karma

Thank you for adopting these Greyhounds.

Hyper fixation is a real challenge. I would imagine that a redirection would be beneficial - a bait and switch technique but I'm guessing here. I would recommend Annie Phenix's books. She's great with this sort of behavior.

tcrhs1 karma

Can you train a border collie to stay out of the trash can? We even put a lock latch on it and she still figured out how to get in.

pilleybianchi6 karma

Oh my, it's funny - not funny I know. I think it's easier to move the trash!

gilrstein1 karma


pilleybianchi1 karma

oh gosh, I feel your pain.

Bark-shock is not a good choice. I'm referring this writer a lot because she knows this stuff. Get Annie Phenix's books. Her most recent is on the best sellers list.

PhotoSpike1 karma

Would you rather have one horse sized dogs or 100 duck sized dogs?

pilleybianchi2 karma

What's the next choice? :)

OverthinkingWanderer1 karma

When crate training, do we leave food and water in the crate with the puppy?

pilleybianchi2 karma

Thank you for asking.

We don't adhere to crate training, it's actually a cage and not a healthy way to start out a healthy relationship with your puppy. The cage is known to create more anxiety and an unhappy pup. If you do go out and leave your dog, they should always have food, water and enough room to get up and stretch and not be afraid of pooping and peeing on themselves.

eternalzoomies1 karma

What are the best things to do to encourage bonding with a new puppy or dog?

pilleybianchi3 karma

Play, play, play and more play. Play with them with a ball or toy - running, chasing, catching. Always let them win. :)

Thevidon-3 karma

Isn't letting them win counterproductive to ensuring that you remain the alpha in the relationship?

Also having trained a variety of dog breeds, Border Collies and cattle dogs generally have an amazing mind meld with their owner/trainer and are so eager to please that a light touch is fine. Some other breeds very much are not that way and need a clearly defined hierarchy in my experience. How might your advice change by general breed types?

pilleybianchi4 karma

It is largely accepted in the scientific, academic and canine behavior community that the alpha mentality is a myth. Alpha and Beta in wolves are simply labels for the mother and the father, not a dominant hierarchy. No relationship should be built on dominance. It's a give and take. Wolves and free dogs work in concert to hunt prey, it's truly survival of the friendliest. There is a great book by Brian Hare & Vanessa Woods that dives into the evolution of humans and dogs.

Breed is a good question. It can give us physiological information, like if your dog is a slowpoke and a speed demon, but it doesn't give us information about who your dog is as an individual.

52projects1 karma

Hello -- what would be an approach to take to help your dog understand and adjust to how often you will be home? Say, going from being around a lot due to work from home, but then entering a new phase where you will be gone most of the day - and vice versa... How to communicate and help make that adjustment so it is more seamless and comfortable for the dog?

pilleybianchi2 karma

That's a tough one. First try to make sure they have some solid bonding time with you as far walks and playful engagement. If you can introduce the separation in shorter spurts, that good. Also, we would also let Chaser, "we'll be back." So that when you give that cue when you leave - she would know this is downtime and to settle.

52projects2 karma

Thank you Pilley, appreciate this response and the idea of communicating a "we'll be back" cue - very helpful.

pilleybianchi1 karma

good luck!

jf2k41 karma

My Australian Shepherd (currently 9 months old) is a very submissive male, he is also is very anxious. He tries to submit repeatedly while training, like if we’re walking side by side on leash and often times with commands like sit and stay which makes his training challenging when he is rolling over or submissively urinating.

He does not come from an abused background we’ve had him since he was 8 weeks.

What can we do to get less of a submissive response and more action when either doing hand signals or verbal commands?

pilleybianchi4 karma

He's a youngin' and still a puppy. The first thing you want to do is avoid obvious frustation and overusing the word "no." Instead of going for the obedience - play with him a lot. Get goofy and silly, chase each other. Play keep away with a toy or ball - but always let him win to build his confidence and have a little positive engagement.

boblinquist2 karma

I really admire how much you champion play as a strategy. I have a very intelligent 3yo mini labradoodle (pics on request) who can be very independent and spirited and you are so right, engaging through play is such a positive and effective way to get him under control!

pilleybianchi2 karma

Play will never let you down! It may wear you out, but leave your happy!

Astarkraven3 karma

It may help to know how it is you're going about training. What steps do you take to teach? How often can your dog accurately complete the behavior you're asking for? What tones of voice do you use? What tools? What is your response to a failure to follow a cue? Are you being very careful to be clear and consistent with timing? What reinforcement options have you tried?

All these details matter a great deal in answering your question. "Submissive when I give commands" isn't quite enough context on its own. Just so you know!

pilleybianchi1 karma


sayit2times1 karma

My Aussie mix is generally good but can be stubborn when out on walks. We have a few different gates we pass through where I do "wait" training with her, and it seems almost random how receptive she'll be to the commands, despite doing it almost every time we go out for a walk. I'm always persistent, no matter how long it takes, but often it'll be 3-4 minutes of attempts before I can get her to respond to name recall to get her into a sit, even with high value treats. Any ideas?

pilleybianchi3 karma

Generally, I would back off on the treats. They can become distracting and if your pup isn't hungry - not a great motivator. Aussies are herders and some are definitely more assertive than others, which sounds like your pup. Chaser was not shy in letting us know what she wanted to do, instead of what we were requesting and that's a healthy give and take. It's okay to let her have a moment with the gates. Remember the relationship is a "give and take," not simply "do as I say."

There will be definite moments of frustration - but just go with the flow, because learning take time. :)

Sharpos51 karma

Hi! We have a chocolate lab that my family loves very much. He’s 5, and while we know he’s got a lot of great years left, he won’t be around forever. We have enough room in our home and lives for a second dog, but don’t necessarily want a second dog - but we will definitely want another dog after our current dog is gone. Do you have any advice in relation to getting a second dog when your first dog is getting on in years?

Does the older dog ever teach the younger dog how to “be” a dog in our household?

Is there downside to crossover?

pilleybianchi4 karma

Wow, this is really a great question. Dogs are unique and older dogs can be super stressed when a new dog is introduced into the household unless they get along with other dogs. Always check with your pup first to see if a friend would make him happy or anxious. IMO, if you have the room - 2 dogs are not more work than 1 dog, unless of course they don't get along and it's harder to travel with them for you guys.

IHateTheLetter-C-1 karma

How did you/your dad get into that as a job?

pilleybianchi3 karma

Ah, thank you for asking! My father was an animal behaviorist and professor of Psychology at Wofford College in SC. He was fascinated with animal behavior and decided it would infinitely more interesting for the students to use dogs in the classroom rather than rats and pigeons. So my sister and I grew up learning operant conditioning and stimulus control before we were in middle school. No family pet was off limits as a science fair project and everything had to be done with positive reinforcement.

My father tried to teach our family dogs human language, but came up short in separating verbs from nouns. - This is told more clearly in my book. :) He realized in his retirement where he went wrong, and he got it right with Chaser. He wanted to discover the boundaries of her memory system and her mind.

They were limitless. His research was so significant it took three years to modify the testing and get it published. Out of thousands of double-blind tests with other people testing her, she had a 95% success.

When their research went globally viral, there was so much media etc. that I stepped in as a producer and writer.

pilleybianchi1 karma

Thanks you guys! I'm so grateful for all of your questions and enthusiasm for your pups. Please check out my book For the Love of Dog, it will answer many, many questions - but I'll continue to respond here! https://smarturl.it/9781797223308 It is a super easy read with brilliant illustrations to make it fun and relatable. Remember when learning is fun - it happens very rapidly.

More later! Pill

pirkules1 karma

What do you think about the Dog Buttons like FluentPet and the claims of the things the dogs are able to communicate using them?

pilleybianchi2 karma

I'm all in. Any form of communication is valuable. Bunny the button dog as well as Bastian the terrior are friends of mine and I have personally witnessed that the buttons have greatly enlarged their worlds. :)

RECreationsByDon1 karma

My wife and I have 13 rescue dogs, and usually things are ok. We only have trouble when everyone is excited, such as going outside to potty, but we have adapted and only let them out one or two at a time.

We do have an 8yr old lab, with a fight/bite history. When she's not in her kennel, she wear a muzzle. Our latest rescue, is a pibble/pyrenesse mix. He's only 8 months, so a little hyper and playful. He and our lab currently seem to have an uneasy truce. But there's a lot of growling and posturing when they are close to each other. How can I ease the tension between the two? So far, our efforts for the last 2 months are failing.

pilleybianchi3 karma

Wow, this is a behavioral issue that is a little outside of my wheel house.

First, thank you for rescuing these pups, that's a lot of action! I would suggest checking out Annie Phenix's books on reactive dogs. She's brilliant and her new book is a game changer.

I do think that dogs can work things out, and perhaps your lab might be able to teach the pup a thing or two, but that puppy is big. I"m curious about how they engage when it's just the two of them. Is the dynamic the same? .

RECreationsByDon2 karma

I have thought of doing that, but have been a little hesitant. They will both sit on the couch with me, but the lab is tense when it happens. Shes been on a variety of meds due to her reactivity, but they didn't help. Thus, the muzzle. It's often difficult to work with them individually, but we've gotten better with it over time. And ya, he's a big boy, about 3" taller than her. I think she's afraid of him, and he's afraid of her and her muzzle. I'll try some time with just the two of them.

Thanks for the book recommendation, I'll go snag it now.

pilleybianchi4 karma

I'll be sending you positive puppy energy!

ElectricVomit1 karma

What are your certifications? What makes you a person to be relied on for dog behavior expertise?

DAmazingBlunderWoman1 karma

What is your favourite cat breed?

pilleybianchi1 karma

I love them all! I have short hair tabbies. But they chose me.

ArtefactofanExercise1 karma

We adopted a rescue dog who is an absolute softie but who makes an almost human-like scream whenever he sees certain kinds of dogs in the street. We honestly can't tell if he's scared or throwing a tantrum because he can't play. Is there any stress-free way of introducing him to other dogs to desensitize him to whatever is bothering him?

pilleybianchi1 karma

hum, what kind of dog is he? Basenji's have a yodel/scream. A good thing to do is observe his body language. Are his ears up or pinned back, what's his tail doing? What's the shape of his mouth. This could tell us whether he is stressed or aroused.

Is it possible for him to simply sniff with other dogs?