dog toy ball

A dog holding a ball (Photo by Blue Bird from Pexels)

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Is your dog gifted? If so, your pooch is likely more playful than typical dogs. International researchers define gifted dogs as those that know the names of their toys.

Researchers from Eötvös Loránd University have discovered that only a few dogs globally show the unique skill of knowing the names of their toys. The gifted dogs learn these names quickly and remember those names for over two months. Researchers call these dogs Gifted Word Learners.

Family Dog Project researchers decided to examine whether these gifted dogs had different personality traits from typical dogs. For the study, the team asked the owners of 21 gifted dogs from all over the world to fill out the Dog Personality Questionnaire. Researchers restricted their investigation to Border Collies because most of the gifted dogs belong to this breed.

“This is a validated questionnaire that reveals personality traits in dogs and has been already successfully used in several published studies,” says study co-author Borbala Turcsan in a university release.

[yotuwp type=”videos” id=”EfgF01EyPhs” ]

Study authors compared data from the gifted dogs to information obtained with the same questionnaire on a matched sample of 144 average dogs from two different countries — Austria and Hungary.

The main difference researchers found between gifted and typical dogs is that gifted dog owners rated their pet as being even more playful than the typical ones.

The says that working dogs are more playful than dogs of non-working breeds. Researchers selected the Border Collie for working purposes. The typical Border Collie is already very playful, and the study shows that gifted dogs are even more so.

“This study shows that there is a relationship between extremely high levels of playfulness and giftedness in learning object verbal labels in dogs,” notes study co-author Ádám Miklósi, head of the Department of Ethology at the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest.

“However, it is important to note that this does not necessarily imply that playfulness is what makes this talent emerge. We do not exclude it, but it could also be that the extreme playfulness in the gifted individuals is driven or perceived by the owners as a result of frequent playful interactions with their dogs, with named toys.”

Researchers state that the ability to learn object names is extremely rare and dogs who are able to do this are important for research. Study authors encourage dog owners who believe their pets know several toy names to contact them through the form on the Genius Dog Challenge website.

The findings are published in the journal Animal Cognition.

About Matt Higgins

Matt Higgins worked in national and local news for 15 years. He started out as an overnight production assistant at Fox News Radio in 2007 and ended in 2021 as the Digital Managing Editor at CBS Philadelphia. Following his news career, he spent one year in the automotive industry as a Digital Platforms Content Specialist contractor with Subaru of America and is currently a freelance writer and editor for StudyFinds. Matt believes in facts, science and Philadelphia sports teams crushing his soul.

Our Editorial Process

StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

Our Editorial Team

Steve Fink


Chris Melore


Sophia Naughton

Associate Editor

1 Comment

  1. Colleen Phillips says:

    We have an 11-month-old male German Shepherd Dog. He is our third GSD, and quite different from his predecessors. This dog absolutely lives to play, and his toys are far more important to him than food or treats. Blitz III takes the lead in inventing his own games, and sometimes he comes up with games within games. He will play with almost anything, but loves his squeaky soft plastic nubby balls best, as well as a rubber peg-leg pirate chicken that sounds like wounded prey – lol.
    At first we were frustrated when it seemed he might be less intelligent than our other dogs because he seems less eager to please and more difficult to train in some respects, but as time goes on, we’re convinced he is highly intelligent (maybe smarter than his owners) and needs a different approach to training. We have to hide his toys to get a break, and spell their names so he won’t know what we’re talking about, but he knows where they are. High maintenance pup, but we adore him! I think this article is spot on –