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Does your dog listen to you? Scientists reveal an unusual ability in some dogs

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Kamal Saini
Kamal S. has been Journalist and Writer for Business, Hardware and Gadgets at Revyuh.com since 2018. He deals with B2b, Funding, Blockchain, Law, IT security, privacy, surveillance, digital self-defense and network policy. As part of his studies of political science, sociology and law, he researched the impact of technology on human coexistence. Email: kamal (at) revyuh (dot) com

Hungarian scientists have shown that some dogs are specially gifted with an ability to learn the names of new objects by hearing them just four times.

Researchers from the Eötvös Lorand University in Budapest have been implementing the project called Family Dogs in the Department of Ethology for two years. The objective is to demonstrate the ability of certain dogs to memorize new names of objects. 

The results of the experiment are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

To do this, they search the world for talented dogs capable of memorizing item names simply by playing with their owners or in normal life, just like children do. While most dogs learn the names of objects after prolonged training, there are others that show exceptional abilities.

It is true that without practice, they quickly forget these words. Two of the gifted dogs in the experiment were a border collie, named Whiskey from Norway, and a Yorkshire terrier, named Vicki Nina from Brazil. The researchers tested their ability to learn a new word by hearing it only four times and relating it to a particular object – in this case, a particular toy.

“We wanted to know under what conditions gifted dogs can learn new words. To test this, we introduced Whiskey and Vicki Nina new words in two different situations,” said Claudia Fugazza, lead author of the study, in a university news release.

In the first situation, an attempt was made for them to learn new words while playing with their owners, who pronounced the toy’s name four times. In the second situation, the so-called exclusion-based method was more complex. Seven toys with names already familiar to the dog were present in the task, as well as a new one to test the dog’s ability to choose a new object upon hearing a new name.

In both cases, both dogs demonstrated that they could choose the new toy by hearing their owner pronounce a new name, confirming that dogs, like children, can choose by exclusion.

“This rapid learning is similar to the way children acquire their vocabulary at the age of two or three,” says Adam Miklosi, another author of the paper, and head of the Department of Ethology.

However, while in a verification test conducted a couple of minutes later, the dogs reacted successfully, an hour later they did not recognize the words. In another test with twenty common dogs, they failed to learn the names of the new objects. According to the authors, this shows that the ability to memorize new words is only present in a limited number of specially gifted dogs

Recently, the researchers have launched another project called the Genius Dog Challenge, whose challenge is to discover how many new words gifted dogs can learn in a short period of time.

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