“The Genius Dog Challenge is part of a bigger research project on language learning and processing in dogs,” Dr. Claudia Fugazza, a canine behavior researcher at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, told CNN.
“We have been searching for the past two years and a half for dogs that showed the ability to learn object names and we found that this seems to be a rare skill. While most dogs struggle to learn even only a few names, some rare individuals seem to be very talented at this and can learn multiple object names very easily.”
All of the dogs participating in the competition are Border collies, and they come from Spain, the Netherlands, Brazil, Hungary and Florida.
Fugazza said that they were not actively searching for only Border collies, but nearly all of the dogs they found that had this skill were from that breed. She said she did test a Yorkshire terrier several years ago that had this rare skill but the dog has passed away.
The first stage of the contest gives the contestants one week to learn the names of six toys, and the second stage will double that number and see if they can learn the names of 12 toys.
Squall, 4, comes from Florida and knows the names of at least 55 toys. Two-year-old Gaia from Brazil knows the names of more than 80 toys. Nalani is a 7-year-old from the Netherlands and knows the names of more than 75 toys. Rico, 4, is from Spain and knows the names of approximately 30 toys. Max, 2, lives in Budapest and is expected to know the names of more than 100 toys after the contest is done. Whisky, 7, is from Norway and already knows the names of more than 100 toys.
The researchers hope that the event will help them find new research subjects and answer two important questions: What makes these dogs special and different from other dogs, and what is the origin of their exceptional performance?
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