Dec. 16, 2022

The Dog Genius Challenge with Dr. Claudia Fugazza | The Long Leash #72

The Dog Genius Challenge with Dr. Claudia Fugazza | The Long Leash #72

Does your dog know the names of its toys? How many? Two? Four? What about 50? The Genius Dog Challenge is seeking the smartest dogs who can memorize the most toys. But why?

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Today on the show: dog geniuses. What does it mean to be a truly gifted dog? Researcher Dr. Claudia Fugazza has been on a mission to better understand how dogs learn. She is particularly interested in the dogs that can memorize dozens of toy names.

Everyone thinks they have the smartest dog in the world (or at least the best!) but what makes a dog a prodigy? Dogs like Chaser, a border collie who has purportedly learned the name of over 1,000 toy names! But that kind of talent is very rare. And it’s not well known why they are able to do this.

Is it breed? The way they were trained? Were they just born talented? Dr. Fugazza and her colleagues at the University of Budapest want to find more. Thus, the Genius Dog Challenge was born. 

In her search to better understand talent and language in dogs, Dr. Fugazza has started an online initiative to study smart dogs around. In this conversation, we delve into the world of dog learning, and you will find out how to test if your dog is a genius.

Episode Links

Genius Dog Challenge

The Long Leash #61 Sit, Stay, Speak...with Buttons! With Leo Trottier

This episode is sponsored in part by EverPup and BarkBox.


0:00 Introduction

2:30 What is a Smart Dog?

14:21 Talent in Dogs

24:40 Rico and Chaser-Genius Dogs

30:27 Do As I Do

36:52 Episodic Memory

43:56 Is Your Dog a Genius?

49:12 Outro

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Claudia FugazzaProfile Photo

Claudia Fugazza


Dr. Claudia Fugazza is a researcher at the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest.
Her major fields of study are social learning, imitation, language learning and processing in dogs, and exceptional cognitive performance.
During her PhD, she developed a training method called Do as I Do (named after Hayes & Hayes 1952 and Topál et al. 2006) which relies on dogs’ social cognitive skills. This method is now used both as a paradigm to study dogs’ cognitive abilities and for applied dog training purposes. She is currently working on a project on language learning and processing in dogs.