Updated: Nov 16, 2022
Some dogs are pretty darn smart--but is there a genius dog?
A wide variety of dogs, from mixed breed to purebred--are easily trained, picking up on human behavior and conditioning clues very quickly to perform tricks and tasks, and services for those who are differently abled. That's no surprise to most people. What is surprising is the idea of a "genius dog"--one that can learn words and answer simple commands using those words. Is there such a thing--and can your dog be a genius dog, too?
(RE)Searching for the Genius Dog
New research shows there are some incredibly gifted dogs in the world. Among the extraordinary "show of intelligence," these dogs display is the ability to learn and use words. Some gifted dogs can "learn the names of up to 12 new toys in just one week." Even more surprising, up to two months later these genius dogs can recall the animus of those toys.
Interest in a dog's ability to learn words began skeptically, like most research studies. A pet owner from Norway claimed her dog, Whisky, knew the names of toys. Two researchers from Hungary, Claudia Fugassa and Ádam Miklósi tested Whisky, and the dog demonstrated uncanny vocabulary skills. This inspired the team to see if other dogs could be trained to learn the names of objects. After an intensive training period, lasting months, most of the 36 dogs they worked with could not learn the names of many objects.
Will the Real Genius Dog Please Stand Up!
The researchers did not give up their quest for a genius dog. In the second study, they looked for dogs with an existing vocabulary. Five more dogs, in addition to Whisky, were studied. The dogs hailed from Brazil, the U.S., Netherlands, Spain, and Hungary. These six dogs understood the names of over 28 toys. Some knew more than 100!
What the dogs could name/identify was determined by having the dog successfully retrieve a toy upon the owner's request when the toy was
placed out of sight in a different room
out of view of the owner
mixed in a group of other named toys
There is one thing all six of these dogs have in common: All six are Border Collies.
Alas... all is not lost for other dogs to be genius! Ongoing research shows that there are a few other "genius breeds" (at least among the dogs involved in the research) These dog breeds include a German Shepherd, a Pekinese, a Mini Australian Shepherd, and a few mixed breed dogs.
Is your dog a genius? In the comments, post a story and picture about your dog's superior intelligence...no matter the breed!
Your dog can apply to the Genius Dog Challenge Project
Psychology Today (2022) In Search of the Genius Dog by Mary Bates, p. 41
National Geographic (2021) Some Dogs are Geniuses (Just Like Humans)