What do Air Bud, Lassie, and Brian Griffin have in common?
They’re all extraordinarily talented dogs. They’re also all fictional, but that doesn’t mean gifted dogs are a myth—in fact, new research suggests just the opposite: that the canine species might have its own Leonardo, Mozart, or Hawking in its midst.
The study, published in Scientific Reports, gathered 40 dogs who underwent an intensive three-month training program with the end goal being to learn the names of at least two dog toys—the minimum amount necessary to confirm that a dog can actually tell objects apart. Daily lessons involved playing with dogs while repeating the names of toys. Participants included both puppies and full-grown dogs from a variety of breeds, plucked from around the globe.
By the course’s conclusion, researchers found that a handful of dogs had risen to the top of the pack, acquiring knowledge at the breakneck pace of 13 to 39 toy names within the three months. On the other hand, the rest did not show evidence of learning at all. There was hardly any in-between.