6 October 2021

Why dogs are better than babies*

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Everyone likes to think that their dog is the smartest in the world.

For example, I’m convinced that when my dog spent a whole day trying to eat my sneakers until he got sick, he was really trying to save me from poor arch support and a lifetime of lower back pain.

He’s helping!

Of course, while all pooches are precious, some are smarter than others. And according to a new study from The Royal Society, some are so smart that they can learn vocabulary on the level of a human infant.

The authors recruited their canine participants through a global social media campaign called the Genius Dog Challenge. While the campaign received a fair amount of coverage, they only found about fifteen Gifted Word Learners (or GWLs) from across the world suitable for the experiment, suggesting that we may in fact slightly overestimate our dogs’ intelligence.

Of that cohort, six dogs were chosen, each with a proven ability to learn words. All of them were border collies, which makes sense to any Lassie fans.

The dogs went through several experiments where their owners were asked to teach them the names of new toys over a week. After the week, the dogs were tested by being asked to fetch their toy from another room.

Not only was it found that the dogs could memorise the names of 12 new toys with a high rate of success, five could still remember them after a month and four could remember after two months.

This, according to the report, is learning at a speed and scale comparable to the abilities of a one-year-old human child.

Or me on a Monday morning.

If you were rejected from the Genius Dog Challenge, bark at felicity@medicalrepublic.com.au

*Claim not supported by study under discussion

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