While most people will have experienced forgetting the name of someone they have just met, “gifted” dogs are able to remember the names of new toys two months later, researchers have found.
Scientists examined the ability of six collies, identified through the Genius Dog Challenge, to learn the names of toys.
They found that most learned 12 new toy names in one week and remembered them for two months.
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Researchers suggest these dogs are a powerful model for studying mental mechanisms related to word acquisition in a non-humans.
Shany Dror, leading researcher, from the Family Dog Project, Eotvos Lorand University, Hungary, said: “We know that dogs can easily learn words that are linked to actions, such as ‘sit’ or ‘down’.
“But very few dogs can learn names of objects.
“For more than two years we searched around the world for dogs that had learnt the names of their toys, and we managed to find six.”
The dogs, – Max from Hungary, Gaia from Brazil, Nalani from The Netherlands, Squall from America, Whisky from Norway, and Rico from Spain – all qualified to participate in the challenge.
To do so, the animals had to prove they knew the names of more than 28 toys, with some knowing more than 100.
Claudia Fugazza, head of the research team, said: “These gifted dogs can learn new names of toys at a remarkable speed.
“In our previous study we found they could learn a new toy name after hearing it only four times.
“But, with such short exposure, they did not form a long-term memory of it.”
In the new study, researchers challenged the dogs’ owners to first teach their pets the names of six toys, and then 12 new toys in only one week.
The researchers were amazed that the dogs were easily able to learn the names of between 11 and 12 toys.
One and two months after they had learned the names of the new toys, the four-legged animals were tested, and researchers found they still remembered the names.
The data was collected during the Covid-19 lockdowns and so owners were asked to set up two video cameras at home and connect to a livestream so the dogs’ and their owners’ behaviour could be fully monitored.
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