Border Collies are among the most gifted dog breeds.
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Do you ever feel like your pooch knows exactly what you're saying? Turns out, they just might. A new study from Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, used two dogs that are popular on social media— Whisky, a Border Collie from Norway, and Vicky Nina, a Yorkshire terrier from Brazil—to determine how quickly gifted dogs may learn new words. "To test this, we exposed Whisky and Vicky Nina to the new words in two different conditions, during an exclusion-based task and in a social playful context with their owners. Importantly, in both conditions, the dogs heard the name of the new toy only four times," said Dr. Claudia Fugazza, lead author of the study.

three dogs at a grassy park outside
Credit: Jennifer Smith / Getty Images

Researchers found that the dogs learned new words best when in a social context, such as learning the name of a toy when the owner played with the dog. After Whisky and Vicky Nina were able to identify the right toy by name after only hearing it only four times, researchers tested the same theory with 20 other dogs, all of whom were unable to learn the words quickly. This study confirms that only a few very gifted dogs are able to learn words quickly without any formal, long-term training.

Dogs' mental abilities are close to a human child age two to two-and-a-half years old. Researchers have found that the most gifted dog breeds include border collies, poodles, German shepherds, Golden retrievers, Dobermans, Shetland sheepdogs, and Labrador retrievers.

A 2009 study from the American Psychological Association found that dogs can understand more than 150 words and numbers. "We all want insight into how our furry companions think, and we want to understand the silly, quirky and apparently irrational behaviors [that] Lassie or Rover demonstrate," said psychologist and leading canine researcher Stanley Coren, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia. "Their stunning flashes of brilliance and creativity are reminders that they may not be Einsteins but are sure closer to humans than we thought."

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