Whether it is to see a child who only needs a few seconds to learn Mary had a little lamb At the piano, experiencing being annihilated by a much better player in a basketball game, or witnessing someone’s encyclopedic memory while reciting statistics on geography, humans see natural talent every day.
Now, a study looking for the origin of “natural talent” in dogs has been published in Nature. He found that, like humans, some particular dogs show more innate talent than others.
This story has a lot to do with border collies, a species of dog that the study authors note was bred to herd sheep and therefore had to be more aware of its owners’ calls, instructions, and whistles.
The American Kennel Club reported last year on a border collie named Chaser, who had 1,022 toys and knew the individual names of each one, while Sciences reported one named Rico who knew the names of 200 toys and could very quickly retrieve those for which he had no name using exclusion learning and inference at the level of a 3-year-old human.
When locating 34 dog owners around the world via social media, Claudia Fugazza from Eötvös Loránd University wanted to see if they could assign specific names to all the toys they played with, and be able to recognize and respond to those names of righ now.
Of those 34 dogs, only one border collie was successful, a young female named Olivia, who sadly died of health complications before she could finish the trial.
“[W]We decided to conduct a study in which both puppies and naive adult dogs were systematically and intensively trained to learn at least two object names over a 3-month period, and used a strictly controlled test method to assess the outcome of the test. learning of the dogs every month from the beginning of the training ”, wrote Fugazza in his paper.
Every month a scientist would visit the dog’s house and run tests to see if they could retrieve an object based on the names they had been practicing. If they were successful, another name would be added.
Perhaps the surprising thing is that of the 34 dogs, 19 were border collies and 18 of them i didn’t learn a single name. It was also interesting that outside of the study, his same research method found that six border collies that could already learn names could continue to learn more.
The hypothesis was that some dogs with some neurological plasticity due to early training or breed activity would have better abilities.
However, the dogs learned the names of the toys “regardless of the age of the subjects and despite intensive training,” the researchers wrote, and concluded by saying that “although a few rare individuals can quickly master multiple object names, we suggest that the ability to learn object names in dogs shows analogies with exceptional performance (talent) in humans. “
It seems that it is as difficult to discover why Mozart was Mozart as it is to discover why Chaser, the border collie, was Chaser, the border collie.
PAW This fascinating investigation has been sent to friends on social media …