Rare “gifted” dogs are more playful

A new study just published in Animal Recognition shows that the rare dogs that are talented in training facilities verbal tags – the names of their toys – are more playful than typical dogs.

Researchers at the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest recently discovered that only a few dogs worldwide show the unique ability to learn the names of many objects – the names of their toys. THESE talented dogs can learn names very quickly and remember what they have learned for more than two months. The researchers called these dogs Data Word Learners.

Family Dog Project researchers investigated whether gifted word-learning dogs differ in personality traits from typical dogs (ie, dogs that do not show the rare ability to quickly learn the names of many objects).

In humans, problem-solving ability has been linked to several personality traits, and it appears that more playful individuals may show better problem-solving ability.

Researchers asked the owners of 21 gifted dogs from around the world to complete the Dog Personality Questionnaire.

“This is a valid questionnaire that reveals personality traits in dogs and has already been used successfully in several published studies,” he explains. Borbala Turksanco-author of the study.

The data obtained regarding the personality traits of the Data Word Learners were then compared with the data obtained with the same questionnaire in a matched sample of 144 typical dogs from two different countries, Austria and Hungary.

“We limited our investigation to border collies because most gifted word learners belong to this breed,” explains Dr.. Claudia Fugazzathe study’s principal investigator.

“However, it is important to note that the vast majority of border collisions do not display this talent,” he points out. Dr.. Andrea Sommersco-author of the study.

“And also that there are some talented students of words who do not belong to this race”, he adds Shany Dror.

The only difference the researchers found between gifted and typical border collies was that the gifted dogs were rated by their owners as even more playful than the typical ones from both countries. It should be noted that working dogs are more playful than dogs of non-working breeds. The border collie is a breed selected for working purposes. Thus, the typical Border collie is already very playful, and the study reveals that gifted dogs are even more playful.

Adam Miklósico-author and head of the Department of Ethology concludes: “This study shows that there is a link between extremely high levels of playfulness and talent in learning verbal object labeling in dogs.

However, it is important to note that this does not necessarily mean that playfulness is what makes this talent emerge. We do not rule it out, but it may also be that extreme playfulness in gifted individuals is encouraged or perceived by owners as a result of frequent playful interactions with their dogs, with named toys.”

The ability to learn the names of objects is very rare and dogs with this capacity are important for research. By studying these dogs, we can not only better understand dogs, but also ourselves. The researchers encourage dog owners who believe their dogs know some toy names to contact them via the form at The genius dog challenge Web page.

Reference: Fugazza C, Turcsan B, Sommese A, Dror S, Temesi A, Miklósi A. A comparison of personality traits of gifted and typical borderline language learners. Bias Cogn. Published online August 5, 2022. doi:10.1007/s10071-022-01657-x

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