Smart dogs: How many words can dogs learn?

Narrated from: Curious Dog Facts

Rico, Chaser and Betsy, the unique Border Collies!

In recent years, science has proved that “mute beasts” can learn to communicate with humans – and that is not science fiction. Most animals have an impressive mental capacity.
Parrots are famed as “talkers”. Yet, their fame is largely due to the fact that they can mimic human words. However, dogs also learn a lot of words – they just can’t repeat them.

But how many words can a dog recognize? Well, this is up to the training the dog receives! An untrained pet dog would probably recognize about 20 words – and that’s also something.

However, if a dog is trained properly, it could learn as many as 150 to 160 words. That is close to a human toddler’s vocabulary. Of course, such comprehension could only be achieved with extensive training – and only by a smart dog of course!

Still, many scientists argue that 160 words is not the limit of a dog’s mental abilities. Two distinct cases support that theory – Betsy and Rico.

Rico and Betsy are border collies, and both dogs have amazed the world with their cognitive abilities.

Rico participated in a scientific experiment which proved that he could recognize 200 items simply by name! We are not talking of commands, but of object names – in terms of vocabulary, Rico convinced scientists that dogs could do no worse than apes, dolphins and parrots! Furthermore, he showed a mental ability called “fast-mapping”, meaning he recognized an object by process of elimination. This cognitive ability was thought unique to the human race.

Betsy is another example of a dog that rivals even the great apes! Betsy is a female border collie living in Austria. She has proven she understands at least 340 words. Furthermore, scientists believe that she is a fast learner, picking up a word she has heard only two times – she surpasses some human toddlers in that! Betsy’s unique feat is that she can recognize and fetch objects after seeing them in a photograph – and very few animals grasp the concept of two-dimensional images!

So, scientists deduce that with proper training a dog could learn 350 to 400 words. Your dog too! A lot depends on the breed and on the dog’s character of course, yet one could always try.

400 words would be an impressive vocabulary – still not a threat for parrot domination in linguistics, but a good result nonetheless.

And then comes Chaser. Chaser is the pet dog of an American scientist Dr. John Pilley. Pilley wanted to test how many words a dog could actually learn. He spent years training Chaser and in the end – Chaser proved that she could recognize 1022 items! She doesn’t simply respond to the command “Fetch!” Chaser is actually able to react to the name of the item and bring it back! With a vocabulary of more than 1,000 words, Chaser may well prove to be the smartest dog in the world.

However, is that the final frontier? Well, Chaser is still learning new words – even now! And who knows when another dog wonder will step forward to claim the title “Smartest dog in the world”!

So to be sure: your dog is smart; it’s up to you to help your dog reach its full potential

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