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New Study Details How to Tell if Your Canine Companion Is Gifted

Is Your Dog Gifted? Study Shows How to Find Out
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Border Collies made up 56 percent of the dogs that qualified as gifted.

Dec. 19 2023, Published 9:07 a.m. ET

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Is your canine companion gifted?

A recent investigation has outlined the criteria for deeming a dog gifted, including three pivotal factors.

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Experts at ELTE University in Budapest conducted the study, which found that a dog can be considered gifted if it can grasp a new toy's name within 30 minutes, if it can recognize at least 15 distinct toy names and if it can master over 50 toy names over a two-year span.

Additionally, the study identifies four factors that heighten the likelihood of having a gifted dog: buying a dog from a breeder, ensuring the dog resides with you by the age of 10 weeks, maintaining a household with only one dog and two adults, and opting for neutering or spaying.

While everyone may believe their dog is special, the study reveals that a mere 41 dogs across nine countries — the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, and Hungary — have attained the coveted "Gifted Word Learner (GWL)" status.

Notably, 56 percent of these exceptional dogs belonged to the Border Collie breed. Additionally, a few mixed breeds, a Corgi, a Poodle, a Shih Tzu and two Pomeranians were among the gifted group.

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Professor Adam Miklosi, a co-author of the study, told The Daily Mail, "Because GWL dogs are so rare, until now there were only anecdotes about their background." He further emphasized that the ability to learn object names represents the first documented instance of talent in a non-human species.

As part of the research, dog owners were invited to assess whether they believed their dogs were gifted. If they did, the owners were asked to conduct self-tests, capturing their dog's abilities on video, which was then submitted to the researchers.

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Then a video call was arranged to assess the dog's vocabulary under controlled conditions.

The statistics underscore the rarity of gifted dogs, with only a select few achieving GWL status. The study reveals that these exceptional dogs often acquired their skills organically.

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Lead researcher Shany Dror noted: "Surprisingly, most owners reported that they did not intentionally teach their dogs toy names, but rather that the dogs just seemed to spontaneously pick up the toy names during unstructured play sessions."

Dror added, "In our previous studies we have shown that GWL dogs learn new object names very fast." When the test results were published, it was found that over 50 percent of owners reported that their dogs had acquired a vocabulary of over 100 toy names.

The researchers hope that the study will inspire owners of dogs with GWL potential to come forward. "The relatively large sample of dogs documented in this study helps us to identify the common characteristics that are shared among these dogs and brings us one step closer in the quest of understanding their unique ability," Miklosi said.

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