Playfulness is a key personality trait of gifted dogs •

Last year, researchers from Eotvos Lorand University (ELTE) demonstrated that some dogs have an incredible capacity for learning. Experts have found that these exceptional dogs – known as gifted word learners – can learn up to 12 new toy names in a week and can remember new toy names for at least two months.

“These gifted dogs can learn new toy names with remarkable speed,” said Dr Claudia Fugazza, who led the research. “In our previous study, we found that they could learn a new toy name after hearing it only 4 times. But, with such short exposure, they didn’t form a long-term memory of it.

Now the ELTE team has made another fascinating discovery – an association between giftedness and playfulness in dogs. Researchers have found that playfulness is the key personality trait that makes gifted dogs stand out from the crowd.

“This study shows that there is a relationship between extremely high levels of playfulness and giftedness in learning verbal object labels in dogs,” said study co-author Ádám Miklósi.

For the survey, Dr. Fugazza and his team asked owners of 165 Border collies to complete a dog personality survey. The study focused on border collies because they were the most common gifted word learners.

Of the dogs analyzed for the study, 21 were known to be gifted learners and the rest were randomly selected.

The questions were designed to assess the dogs’ personality in five categories: fearfulness, aggression towards people, playfulness and excitability, and aggression towards other animals.

When Exports compared the responses of gifted dog owners to those of typical dog owners, playfulness was the only personality trait that was consistently different between the two groups.

It’s unclear from the study if it’s the playfulness that helps dogs learn more words, or if the more playful ended up with more opportunities to learn, Dr. Fugazza at NBC News.

The results do not necessarily mean that playful dogs are smarter. “Intelligence is the result of various cognitive traits that allow individuals to flexibly solve different types of problems,” Dr. Fugazza said. “Gift refers to an extremely good ability in the case of a specific skill.”

A similar link between playfulness and problem-solving abilities has already been established in humans. The research, led by Cheng-Ping Chang of National Tainan University, showed that students who are more creative and playful tend to be good at math and science. The study results also suggest that play enhances creativity and exploration.

By Chrissy Sexon, Personal editor

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