A team of researchers from the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, has created a new challenge, named the Genius Dog Challenge.
The project aims as a way to gather information regarding different aspects of a dog’s intelligence. It also intends to help people understand what are the factors that determine a dog’s enhanced ability to recognize words, along with association skills and greater memorization abilities.
The same team conducted research in the past that showed only a few dogs, mainly Border Collies, were able to learn the name of multiple objects. This result pushed the researchers to try to understand why this happens.
The groups of dogs the team tested were recruited using social media platforms. Their owners had signed them up, as they believed they were word-knowledgeable. When the team finally gathered enough subjects, they started the test. All the dogs had to do is retrieve toys that they were requested to get. This was meant to test how good their memorization and identification skills were.
The dogs who were part of the test were able to learn up to 12 new object names in one week. This learning rate is comparable to an infant’s ability to memorize words when they first start learning a language. Most dogs also remembered the new object names for more than 2 months.
All of the Border Collies studied, along with a few other dogs of different breeds, were able to associate a word with a whole category of toys, not just one individual toy. This can mean that non-human language acquisition is more complex than previously thought, and can also allow researchers to better understand why humans are so different from animals in this department.