Average dog or canine Einstein?
Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? At least one senior canine is a quick study when it comes to vocabulary. Researchers in Germany have found that Rico, a 9-year-old border collie, listens and learns much like a human child. In one try, he learned the name of a new object by a process of elimination. Told to fetch an unfamiliar object with a name he had not heard before, Rico picked out the new item from a group of familiar ones. More importantly, he proved in other tests that he remembered what he had learned, says Julia Fischer, a member of the research team. Rico displays "fast mapping"--a kind of learning that scientists thought was exclusively human. Rico's ability suggests otherwise. It was his performance retrieving objects on a German game show that brought him to Fischer's attention. Are other dogs just as gifted? For now, researchers' conclusions are limited to Rico; they cannot be applied to dogs in general, until. more research is done. Rico might be a special, case among dogs, Fischer says, adding, "Maybe he's Albert Einstein."