Do you think your dog is smart enough to learn new words quickly? If so, you might have a canine genius at home, according to a new study published in the journal Nature.
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Catania in Italy, tested the ability of 22 dogs of different breeds and ages to learn the names of new objects after hearing them only four times. This is an ability that was previously thought to be unique to humans.
The researchers found that only two dogs, a collie named Whisky and a Yorkshire terrier named Vicky Nina, showed this remarkable skill. They were able to fetch the correct toy when asked to choose among a group of familiar and unfamiliar objects. The other 20 dogs did not perform better than chance.
The researchers also observed the personality, motivation, and interaction of the dogs with their owners. They found that the two dogs who could learn new names quickly were more playful, curious, and sociable than the others. They also had a stronger bond with their owners and sought more attention and praise from them.
The researchers concluded that learning new names quickly is a rare and special ability among dogs, that may depend on both genetic factors and environmental factors, such as training and experience.
So how can you tell if your own dog is a genius or not? The study was simple and easy to replicate at home. Just follow these steps to see if your dog can learn the names of new objects as fast as Whisky and Vicky Nina:
- Choose a toy that your dog likes and is easy to carry. It can be anything that catches your dog’s interest, such as a ball, a stuffed animal, or a squeaky toy.
- Show the toy to your dog and say its name clearly. For example, “This is a duck.” Then let your dog play with it for a few seconds.
- Repeat this process with another new toy, using a different name. For example, “This is a frog.”
- After four repetitions of each name, ask your dog to fetch one of the two new toys. For example, “Bring me the duck.” Do not show the toy or point to it. Just use the verbal cue.
- If your dog brings the correct toy, praise him and reward him with a treat or a pet. If he brings the wrong toy or none at all, do not scold him or punish him. Just try again later.
- Repeat this test with different pairs of new toys and see how often your dog gets it right.
If your dog can fetch the right toy more than 70% of the time, you might have a genius dog who can learn new words quickly. If not, don’t worry. Your dog is still smart and adorable, and can learn many other things with proper training and positive reinforcement. 🐶