Does your dog remember what you say? Researchers find that some dogs have a gift for learning and remembering new words

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According to a new study published in Royal Society Open Science some dogs can learn up to 12 new toy names in one week.

Not only that, but they also can remember the new toy names for at least two months.

The dogs presented their exceptional skills as part of the Genius Dog Challenge, a series of live broadcasted experiments, which went viral over social media.

“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,” explains Shany Dror, leading researcher, from the Family Dog Project, Eötvös Loránd University.

For more than two years, the researchers searched the world for dogs that had learnt the names of their toys.

They found six:

  • Max (Hungary),
  • Gaia (Brazil),
  • Nalani (Nederland),
  • Squall (Florida),
  • Whisky (Norway),
  • and Rico (Spain).

All six qualified to participate in the challenge by proving to know the names of more than 28 toys, with some knowing more than 100.

“These gifted dogs can learn new names of toys in a remarkable speed,” says Dr. Claudia Fugazza, head of the research team. “In our previous study we found that 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 this new study, the researchers wanted to push the limits of the dogs’ talent, so they challenged the owners to teach their dogs the names of, first, 6 and then 12 new toys in only one week.

The researchers were amazed by the dogs’ performance.

“They easily learned between 11 to 12 toys” discloses Dror. The researchers also tested the dogs one, and two months after they had learned the names of the new toys and found that they still remembered those.

All of the dogs in this research are Border Collies.

“Originally Border Collies were breed to work as herding dogs, so most of them are very sensitive and responsive to the behavior of their owners,” Dror relates.

Dror emphasizes that, in a recently published study it was found that, even among this breed, learning names of toys is relatively rare.

“Moreover, this talent is not unique to this breed,” Dror adds. “We are constantly searching for more gifted dogs. Thanks to the Genius Dog Challenge we have managed to find also dogs from other breeds, including a German Shepherd, a Pekingese, a Mini Australian Shepherd and a few dogs of mixed breeds”.

Previous research has documented this talent also in Yorkshire Terriers.

Why study gifted dogs?

“Dogs are good models for studying human behavior as they evolved and develop in the human environment,” explains Prof. Adam Miklósi, head of the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University and coauthor of the study. “Moreover, gifted dogs are especially interesting because they show that also among other species there are individuals that are uniquely talented. With the help of these dogs, we hope to better understand the factors that contribute to the development of talent.”

The researchers encourage dog owners that believe their dogs know multiple toy names to contact them through the Genius Dog Challenge.

For a brief video explaining more about the research, check out this youtube link:


Featured photo:


Max is a talented dog, who participates in experiment at Ethology Department at Eötvös Loránd University •credit to Cooper Photo  •credit must be given


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