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Research Shows Dogs Can Comprehend Words
Associated Press ^ | 6/10/04 | AP/Randolph E. Schmid

Posted on 06/10/2004 10:41:32 AM PDT by KentTrappedInLiberalSeattle

WASHINGTON (AP) -- As many a dog owner will attest, our furry friends are listening. Now, for the doubters, there is scientific proof they understand much of what they hear.

German researchers have found a border collie named Rico who understands more than 200 words and can learn new ones as quickly as many children.

Patti Strand, an American Kennel Club board member, called the report "good news for those of us who talk to our dogs."

"Like parents of toddlers, we learned long ago the importance of spelling key words like bath, pill or vet when speaking in front of our dogs," Strand said. "Thanks to the researchers who've proven that people who talk to their dogs are cutting-edge communicators, not just a bunch of eccentrics."

The researchers found that Rico knows the names of dozens of play toys and can find the one called for by his owner. That is a vocabulary size about the same as apes, dolphins and parrots trained to understand words, the researchers say.

Rico can even take the next step, figuring out what a new word means.

The researchers put several known toys in a room along with one that Rico had not seen before. From a different room, Rico's owner asked him to fetch a toy, using a name for the toy the dog had never heard.

The border collie, a breed known primarily for its herding ability, was able to go to the room with the toys and, seven times out of 10, bring back the one he had not seen before. The dog seemingly understood that because he knew the names of all the other toys, the new one must be the one with the unfamiliar name.

"Apparently he was able to link the novel word to the novel item based on exclusion learning, either because he knew that the familiar items already had names or because they were not novel," said the researchers, led by Julia Fischer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.

A month later, he still remembered the name of that new toy three out of six times, even without having seen it since that first test. That is a rate the scientists said was equivalent to that of a 3-year-old.

Rico's learning ability may indicate that some parts of speech comprehension developed separately from human speech, the scientists said.

"You don't have to be able to talk to understand a lot," Fischer said. The team noted that dogs have evolved with humans and have been selected for their ability to respond to the communications of people.

Katrina Kelner, Science's deputy editor for life sciences, said "such fast, one-trial learning in dogs is remarkable. This ability suggests that the brain structures that support this kind of learning are not unique to humans and may have formed the evolutionary basis of some of the advanced language abilities of humans."

Perhaps, although Paul Bloom of Yale University urges caution.

"Children can understand words used in a range of contexts. Rico's understanding is manifested in his fetching behavior," Bloom writes in a commentary, also in Science.

Bloom calls for further experiments to answer several questions: Can Rico learn a word for something other than a small object to be fetched? Can he display knowledge of a word in some way other than fetching? Can he follow an instruction not to fetch something?

Fischer and her colleagues are still working with Rico to see if he can understand requests to put toys in boxes or to bring them to certain people. Rico was born in December 1994 and lives with his owners. He was tested at home.

Funding for this research was provided in part by the German Research Foundation.

TOPICS: Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: dogs; language
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To: odense_forever

Your village is calling. They've lost their idiot.

21 posted on 06/10/2004 11:06:54 AM PDT by Constitution Day (Burger Eating War Monkey)
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To: ItsonlikeDonkeyKong

I have a cat that molts when you look at him..
My dog was rather good at not shedding all over the furniture.
However, when she was covered in mud, wetfrom rain, or blanketed with burrs she'd rub against the couch.

22 posted on 06/10/2004 11:07:20 AM PDT by Darksheare (I shall send poultrygeists after you! Beware the possessed chickens!)
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To: Ludicrous

My sis in law has a golden, they are lovey puppies! However, we nicknamed him baby hugie because he doesn't realize how big and powerful he is and will knock you down when trying to greet you!

I'll stick with collies, and agree they are really smart...

23 posted on 06/10/2004 11:08:48 AM PDT by kiki04 ("If a little knowledge is dangerous, where is a man who has so much as to be out of danger?" - THH)
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To: KentTrappedInLiberalSeattle


24 posted on 06/10/2004 11:10:44 AM PDT by dogbrain (memo to self: Don't drink from toilet; it's where liberals wash their hands....)
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To: KentTrappedInLiberalSeattle


25 posted on 06/10/2004 11:11:47 AM PDT by Fiddlstix (This Tagline for sale. (Presented by TagLines R US))
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To: KentTrappedInLiberalSeattle

Research shows my dog understands the word, 'DUH', too.

26 posted on 06/10/2004 11:13:40 AM PDT by rintense (Screw justice. I want revenge.)
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To: Darksheare

The dog I had growing up, a mutt, was the exact same way. You couldn't spell the word 'walk' without him going nuts. He was the same way with the word Moped. I would take him for rides on my Spree (what a site to see!) and I couldn't say or spell the word without him heading to the actual moped to get ready. Riding on the moped was his favorite thing in the world...

27 posted on 06/10/2004 11:16:15 AM PDT by rintense (Screw justice. I want revenge.)
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To: odense_forever

The big shepard across the street was trained to never go beyond the periphery of his yard and I NEVER saw him elsewhere until I heard my runaway puppy crying at my door. When I opened the door, there was my puppy laying on his back, frozen in fear. The wonderful shepard was standing over him. Puppy never ran away again!!

28 posted on 06/10/2004 11:16:33 AM PDT by Sacajaweau (God Bless Our Troops!!)
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To: KentTrappedInLiberalSeattle

Hey now, dogs are usually cute. ;)

29 posted on 06/10/2004 11:17:11 AM PDT by Bacon Man (Guns kill people like spoons made Rosie O'Donnell fat.)
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To: Xenalyte

Does the salted gas grenade show any signs of this?

30 posted on 06/10/2004 11:18:38 AM PDT by Bacon Man (Guns kill people like spoons made Rosie O'Donnell fat.)
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To: KentTrappedInLiberalSeattle

I had a neighbor with a standard poodle. Smartest dog I ever saw. I could tell it to go get a hat and it would look all over the house until it found a hat and brought it back to me. Same thing with slippers, socks, balls, bones, dollys, etc. It make it more amazing, it could distinguish between slippers and shoes or you could say caps or hats and the dog knew you meant the same thing. Also if you asked for a slipper or a hat it would bring you one, but if you asked for slippers or hats, it would bring you two. To make it all the more interesting, a complete stranger could tell this to the dog and the dog would understand the words, so it was not the tone or inflection of the words spoken by the dog's owner. It seemed to me the dog actually understood the meaning of the word itself.

31 posted on 06/10/2004 11:19:19 AM PDT by Kirkwood
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To: Darksheare
Yeah, my sister is still suffering under the affliction of living with a cat that's about as old as Fritz Hollings.

Aside from some crippling allergies, among other things, she doesn't seem to have much of a problem dealing with him. Though it is stressing her out a little bit.

Personally, I like her hamster a lot more.

32 posted on 06/10/2004 11:20:25 AM PDT by The Scourge of Yazid (No la cerveza en la cielo.)
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To: All

My friend's dog, named "Stupid", just took a whirlwind ride through a 48" culvert. Yup, came out breech. That's STUPID!

33 posted on 06/10/2004 11:20:44 AM PDT by Sacajaweau (God Bless Our Troops!!)
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To: rintense

I can't use the word swim without my golden freaking out. If I happen to open a car door with him outside, he's in the car giving me the "look".

Dog stories on FR. Has it gotten kinder and gentler here? I didn't think so.

34 posted on 06/10/2004 11:23:45 AM PDT by dmz
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To: KentTrappedInLiberalSeattle
This isn't news to me

My dog is a genius
I could tell you stories but I don't want to make other dog owners feel bad :>)

35 posted on 06/10/2004 11:28:03 AM PDT by apackof2 (Kind words are like honey-sweet to the soul and healthy for the body Pro.16:24)
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To: Rhetorical pi2

Border Collie bump!

36 posted on 06/10/2004 11:28:06 AM PDT by onedoug
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To: KentTrappedInLiberalSeattle






37 posted on 06/10/2004 11:30:46 AM PDT by Main Street (Stuck in traffic.)
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To: Main Street

Omigawd... they're freaking ADORABLE -- ! :)

38 posted on 06/10/2004 11:33:11 AM PDT by KentTrappedInLiberalSeattle (I feel more and more like a revolted Charlton Heston, witnessing ape society for the very first time)
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To: Bacon Man

We're pretty sure he knows what "Dear God almighty, what's that smell?" means.

39 posted on 06/10/2004 11:38:06 AM PDT by Xenalyte (It's not often you see Johnny Mathis in the wild.)
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To: KentTrappedInLiberalSeattle
I had an old mutt dog that had a pretty large "vocabulary," if that's what you want to call it. I'll never forget the day we brought home our first child. The dog obviously knew that something was up, but he really astonished me when I said, just to see how he'd react, "Go see if the baby's okay." He immediately jumped up and took off full speed for the bedroom where the little one was asleep. When he got to the edge of the room he did an abrupt stop, then actually tiptoed as quiet as a mouse to the crib, stuck his head over the top, tiptoed back out, and came running back to me with his tail wagging.

The dog I own now is so sagacious that he can actually unwind himself from a post, patiently going around and around until he's free. I've never seen a dog that could do that kind of thing. It's amazing, because in order to get what he wants he actually has to move away from the the object he's seeking. That, to my mind, requires some kind of foresight.

40 posted on 06/10/2004 11:43:35 AM PDT by Agnes Heep (Solus cum sola non cogitabuntur orare pater noster)
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