The Doggie Brain: Dogs Learn Words by Size of Objects

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For any pet parent looking to teach their dog more words, a new study has just shed more light on how dogs learn.

While human babies and children learn to associate words with certain shapes, for instance, learning that cup-shaped things are called “cups,” dogs don’t associate language with objects the same way.

According to the study, when dogs learn new words associated with objects, like “ball” or “slipper,” for instance, they learn to distinguish items first by size rather than shape. The texture of objects is the next factor that causes dogs to associate words.

Emile van der Zee, a psychologist at the University of Lincoln in England, lead the study that worked with a 5-year-old border collie named Gable. The researchers showed Gable a horseshoe, teaching him the made-up word, “dax.”

After continued training, Gable identified objects of a similar size as “dax,” even when the shape was different. Further along in the study, Gable began to associate the word “dax” with other objects that had a similar texture, but not with objects that were just of a similar shape.

For another peek into your dog’s head this morning, take a look at the Top 10 Dog Training Tips, with insights from some professional trainers!