We may think our dog is a genius when we teach him a new trick – shake, roll over or even take a bow. Well, hate to be the bearer of bad news, but those are peanuts compared to six dogs competing in the Genius Dog Challenge.
Started on on Nov. 11, scientists in Hungary are testing six dogs’ brain skills when it comes to name recognition. Every week, two of the dogs are presented with a new group of toys and names to associate with them. They then have a week to learn the names. For the first part, the dogs must learn six new toy names. In the second part, they must learn 12 new names. The challenge ends on Dec. 16.
“What we see as a test is just another play session for the dog,” says Shany Dror, a researcher, who along with Dr. Claudia Fugazza and Prof. Adam Miklosi from the Department of Ethology at University in Budapest, is leading the project. “They definitely enjoy these sessions and get very excited when they see the experimenters.”
For the challenge, all are Border Collies (surprise, surprise) and are from all over the world — Spain, Norway, Brazil, Florida, Hungary, and the Netherlands. While Border Collies are considered one of the smartest, if not the smartest breeds, the researchers believe the genius gene can be seen in other kinds of dogs.
“Although the ability to recognize toys by names was documented in a few dogs from other breeds, it does appear to be more common among Border Collies, and yet even among this breed, it is very rare,” says Dror, noting that these dogs require an extensive amount of physical and mental engagement, otherwise, they may develop severe behavioral problems.
One contestant, Max from Hungary, knew the name of 15 toys at just 7 months old. Now he is up to 100 toy names. Squall, the Floridian, knows more than 55 toy names, but his owner says, “We can’t say exactly how much because often his toys don’t survive his crocodile bite.”
One of the smartest (and most famous) dogs was a Border Collie named Chaser, dubbed “The Smartest Dog in the World.” She learned the names of 1,022 toys after three years and very extensive training before passing away in 2019.
Every Wednesday at 1 pm ET, dog lovers can join the live broadcast on the Genius Dog Challenge’s YouTube channel and Facebook page to see what new challenges the dogs face. Not only is it entertaining for us, but it could help researchers recruit other intelligent dogs through the power of social media and sharing.
The end goal of the project is not to necessarily to find the smartest dog in the world, but rather study extremely intelligent dogs to understand how we can better communicate with our pooches.
“The Genius Dog Challenge is part of a bigger research project aimed to understand language perception in dogs,” says Dror, adding, “With this research, we aim to better understand the ways in which dogs perceive human language. Deepening our understanding of this topic can improve the ways we communicate with our dogs.”
The challenge goes until Dec. 16.