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A New Study Suggests That Some Dogs Are Geniuses

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A new study published in Scientific Reports on Thursday, December 14 suggests that there’s a unique group of dogs considered to be geniuses.

The researchers from the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary noted that dogs that “have a vocabulary of object labels” also known as ‘Gifted Word Learner’ (GWL) dogs.

However, there are only a few studies about this phenomenon, and they always had a small sample size of one or two dogs.

So, for this study, the researchers studied 41 GWL dogs and recruited them through an online application on their Genius Dog Challenge website.

The online application asked dog parents if their pet knows dog or object names and if they were purposely trained to know these names.

Furthermore, the online application required dog parents to send a video demonstrating their dog’s ability.

Dog Beagle Featching A Toy Indoors In Bright Interior
Przemek Iciak / Shutterstock.com

In the video, the dog parent should stand outside of the room and ask their dog to retrieve a certain object at a time out of at least three objects/toys.

The researchers sifted through the online applications they received and conducted a Vocabulary Assessment Test (VAT), which was basically the original test, but with the online presence of the researchers.

After this, the researchers eventually chose 41 dogs that knew at least five toys. And among these dogs, 23 dogs proved to know the names of 20 or more toys, six knew around 15 toy names, five knew 14 to 10 toy names, and the remaining seven knew around 5 names.

The researchers looked for a common denominator between these dogs. Is it their breed? Their life history? Their owner’s experience? Their training?

And while 52% of the dog participants were Border Collies, researchers noted that GWL Border Collies are more playful than the typical ones. They also wrote, “We note that even among playful Border collies, object label learning is a rare ability.”

The researchers also said, “Obviously, owners play some role in facilitating GWL dogs’ ability to learn object labels, because the dogs would not be able to learn toy names without owners providing them with toys, and dedicating time to play with them.”

However, the researchers pointed out that the results of the study suggest that an owner’s training skills is not what drives a dog to develop such skill, or else we’d find a lot of GWL dogs in multi-dog households.

Close Up Portrait Of Female Pitbull Puppy Watching A Tennis Ball And Waiting To Play Fetch
J.A. Dunbar / Shutterstock.com

As a matter of fact, 74% of the owners of the dogs who participated in the study reported that they did not intentionally train their dogs to learn toy names.

“They noticed that their dog had learned toy names, probably during spontaneous playful interactions. Following this realization, owners began intentionally introducing their dogs to more toys.”

Furthermore, majority of the owners noted how this spontaneous learning seemed effortless for their dogs. And most of these GWL dogs can learn new toy names in less than 30 mins.

With all of these data, the researchers concluded that GWL dogs show uniform characteristics, such as learning a lot of toy/object names in a short period of time, that make them a unique group of dogs. And that they are not intentionally raised by their owners to become what they are.

“While our findings on GWL dogs should not be generalized to the wider population of typical family dogs, they support previous findings on GWL dogs, increasing their validity and suggesting that what has been found with a specific GWL dog, may be extended to other GWL dogs,” the researchers wrote.

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  1. Avatar Of C. Isley

    C. Isley


    I have two pit/ American bull dog mix 3 y/o dogs. They’re both very smart however our male Turbo(because since we got him has never stopped going) talks quietly and sweetly or yells when we don’t respond quickly and also resounds to words we say. Like ball or bring it back, night night, nap, or eat. When his food or water bowl is empty he smacks them so they hit the wall and we know to fill them. He learns fast and his sister Chloe copies him. They know what time dad comes home and what time he needs to wake up for work. Turbo points to what he wants and yells if we don’t notice soon. He is certainly a special boy. I know he knows what I’m saying. He goes directly to what I tell him or does exactly what I tell him even if he does complain while doing it. I say yells bc if I don’t answer to him sweetly talking to be he barks loudly to get my attention and then quietly talks to me and his daddy. There are so many ways he shows us daily how smart he is that I don’t know how else to explain it to you. And how Chloe learns only from him is amazing also. I’ve had very smart dogs before but none as smart as Turbo. I do spend almost all of my time with him and Chloe though and I’ve always talked to them like they’re my children(bc they are) so maybe that’s why they’re able to learn so much and so well. I never expected them to though. Maybe you can tell me how he learns so easy and she only learns from him.

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