How to Tell If Your Dog Is Really a "Genius," New Study Says

“Gifted word learner dogs" can identify up to 100 different words.

There's no denying the fact that canines are some of the brightest, most intuitive creatures on the planet. They know to signal for a bathroom break with a simple nod of the head or raised brow and where their favorite treats are located at all times. And let's be honest: They've had the puppy eyes look mastered since the first time they pawed through your front door.

Some dog owners may even go as far as to say their dogs are downright geniuses. Though it may sound like a bold claim, a new study from Scientific Reports says genius dogs do, in fact, exist, and some even know the names of more than 100 different toys.

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Over nine different countries and 10 breeds were represented in the study. Border collies were the most popular breed, but the group also consisted of labradors, Pomeranians, Pekingese, shih tzus, corgis, toy poodles, German shepherds, and a cross "between an Australian cattle dog and a miniature Australian shepherd."

While human infants spend days and months learning how to speak and communicate, some dogs can pick up certain keywords without any coaxing or training from their owner at all, lead researcher Shany Dror, a doctoral candidate in ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary, explained in the report.

"Owners just notice one day that their dog knows the name of toys," Dror wrote. "Someone says, 'Pizza,' and their dog suddenly comes with the pizza toy."

So, what constitutes a dog genius? Dror and her colleagues set out to answer that very question when they launched a live-streamed canine linguistics game called the Genius Dog Challenge. During the game, dogs would square off against one another to see which of the four leggeds knew more words. The quest to find the smartest dog breeds lasted five years and the results were astonishing.

Overall, Dror found 41 dogs who could identify at least five different toys based on their name, like "pizza." This elite group of canines was given the nickname "gifted word learner dogs." The smartest of the bunch knew 86 different words. As years went on, and the game progressed, the dogs got even smarter. In the end, 16 dogs had racked up their vocabulary to more than 100 words.

Now, you're probably wondering: How do I tell if my dog is a genius? Dror said the cleverest of the pack showed a keen interest in playing with toys and listened closely to their owners.

"Overall, I think this study is a great example of the next wave of potential for citizen science and for understanding our canine companions and their ability to understand us," Dror concluded.

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Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
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