Many dog parents think their pooch is special. In some cases, it’s not just an impression. A Hungarian study focuses on these exceptional dogs whose cognitive abilities far exceed those of other canines.
The research team behind this article published in the journal Scientific Reports followed dogs who were able to remember the names of hundreds of toys. This ability is all the more remarkable since it is commonly accepted that canines manage, on average, to remember 89 words and expressions.
Researchers from Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest traveled the world for five years, looking for doggies with exceptional memorization skills. They managed to find 41 dogs from nine countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Norway, Portugal and Hungary.
Many of them are Border Collies. This is not surprising when you know that this breed is known for its liveliness and intelligence. A study, published in 2011 in the journal Behavioral Processes, claims that a Border Collie was able to remember more than 1,000 object names after three years of intensive training.
But Shany Dror and his colleagues found that Pomeranians, a Pekingese, a Shih Tzu, a Corgi, a Poodle and a few mixed breed dogs also had learning abilities significantly above average.
Surprisingly, owners of these gifted dogs reported that their little companions seemed to spontaneously learn the names of toys during impromptu play sessions. Their masters were not dog trainers: they had not followed any training training.
This allowed scientists to determine that there is no correlation between owners’ training experience and dogs’ ability to correctly select toys whose names they hear. “In our previous studies, we showed that dogs with high learning potential memorize new object names very quickly. So it’s no surprise that when we did tests with these dogs, the average number of toys the dogs learned was 29, but when we published the results, more than 50% of owners said that their dogs had already acquired a vocabulary of over 100 toy names“, explained Shany Dror, lead author of the study, in a press release.
This research work is the first to focus on the characteristics of gifted dogs. However, academics must continue their investigations to understand the origin of these extraordinary abilities. They encourage dog owners to contact them through the Genius Dog Challenge website if they think their furball is smarter than average.