Location:England, United Kingdom

Dog becomes star pupil at primary school after learning how to READ

Feb 23, 2016

Since starting at Winford Primary School, Fernie the chocolate Labrador has had an inspirational effect on kids

This is the incredible dog who has become an inspiration to primary school children - by learning how to read.

Fernie, a two year-old chocolate Labrador, was introduced to classes at Winford Primary School near Bristol as part of a national scheme to give children motivation and confidence.

And since starting at the school Fernie has learned a few things himself - including recognising certain flashcards.

Owner and headmaster Nik Gardner, 38, says Fernie can read the words 'sit', 'down', 'roll over' and 'spin'.

As this incredible video shows, when Mr Gardner silently holds up one of the four written commands, Fernie correctly responds to the written word.

Even animal behaviorists are unsure as to how Fernie has learned to 'read'.

Rosie Barclay, from the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, said: "It's hard to say exactly how Fernie is doing it.

There are lots of ways to teach a dog to perform a behaviour.

"Sometimes how the paper is held or other subtle movements or words act as a cue when the dog learns that if it performs a certain behaviour it might receive a reward.

"This is known as the Clever Hans effect after a German horse that was said to be able to perform arithmetic but actually was responding directly to cues in the body language of the human trainer.

"Dogs are great at picking up tiny cues from us that predict that we will act in a certain way.

"Studies at Lincoln University have shown that dogs do not tend to distinguish objects by shape even though they can differentiate amounts of things such as food.

"If Fernie is taking cues from his owner, he may not be able to 'read' if someone else showed him the cards and the owner was out of the room.

"But at the end of the day it doesn't matter if he's not really reading - the children are gaining a great deal of motivation by having him around."



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