If you’re looking for a competition where you don’t have to worry about the losers giving in, you can try the Genius Dog Contest.
The competition, which is also a science experiment, will be broadcast live on Facebook and YouTube from Wednesday at 1 p.m. Eastern Time until Monday, November 16. It will test six of the world’s smartest dogs, found through word of mouth and social media, for their ability to learn the names of new objects.
Some dogs, like the border collie, became famous for scientific studies showing their ability to remember words. A member of this breed, Chaser, who had recently passed away, had learned more than 1,000 nouns.
The driving force behind the challenge is Claudia Fugazza, a dog behaviorist who is part of the Family Dog Project at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest. And the sponsor is of course Purina.
Dr. Fugazza admits that the title of the competition and the promotion of the event as a way to find “the world’s smartest dog” are for fun. Learning the names of many, many objects is a fascinating and puzzling talent. Scientists don’t know how it relates to a street dog’s ability in Mumbai to find food, stay safe, and reproduce, or how a beloved Maltese can demand royal treatment from its owner.
Dr. Fugazza became interested in this ability after testing it on whiskey, a border collie in Norway who has since learned more than 100 names from toys with no special training. Whiskey will be part of the challenge, as will dogs from Spain, Brazil, Hungary, Florida and the Netherlands. They are all Border Collies, although Dr. Fugazza says other races are capable of similar feats.
Still, despite extensive training, most dogs cannot accomplish such feats, she said, and her scientific interest is in studying more dogs to try to understand the nature of this ability. Even in humans, she said, genius was poorly understood and its origin controversial, but in animals it was not recognized at all.
“We do not know the origins of this extraordinary achievement. And we think dogs are extremely good models to study this with, ”she said.
And why stream live? Look for new topics. The more dogs that are studied, the better the science. “We hope to reach a wide audience because we believe there might be other such dogs,” said Dr. Fugazza and hoped their owners would want them examined too.
If your dog knows the name difference between one leash and another, make sure to check out the competition. For the rest of us who have struggled enough to remember where a leash is when we need it, this could be a look at another world. Be prepared, however, this will be science, not the puppy shell.
As smart as they may be, contestants are not asked to give either victory or concession speeches, or to know that what they think is a game is actually an experiment and a competition. After all, they’re dogs.