Blue is a border collie mix, a breed best known for their intelligence and herding abilities on farms. Herding is an inherited trait in border collie puppies, exhibiting masterful control over sheep at a very young age, as well as being very easy to train (Dutta et al., 2020). One behavior that reflects Blue’s smarts is his ability to retrieve items/toys by simply telling him: “Go find your (insert toy name)!”.
While he does not always get it on the first try and sometimes will stare blankly back at you, it is still impressive when he is fully engaged and comes bounding out from his toy bin with the correct object dangling from his mouth, pride evident in his tail wag. One of his favorite games is selecting the correct toy from a row in front of him!
Blue’s capability to remember specific English words for his belongings is not unique to him, his breed excels in having a remarkable memory. Border collies have been placed number one regarding canine intelligence (Dutta et al., 2020). One study ran experiments to determine if dogs can obtain an understanding of nouns, independent of context or other cues, finding that the border collie they trained to complete the memory testing tasks, Chaser, was able to learn “…more proper-noun names (1022) than any other dog…”. Additionally, the study’s results equated the intelligence of border collies to that of a young human child (Pilley & Reid, 2011). Blue’s toy collection is much smaller than Chaser’s 1000+, but he can perform very similar activities!
Blue enjoys the mental stimulation that games such as hide-and-seek, and ‘go find your toy’ gives him, just as much as he loves to run around in big open fields and chase deer. He has a great memory; he knows everyone in the family by name and can pick each one out in a group! Blue is motivated by the attention he receives when he performs his tricks/games. Similarly, Chaser worked for incentives given by the researchers, such as physical attention, activities she likes, etc., rather than less effective treats or food (Pilley & Reid, 2011). Being a non-food-driven dog made training Blue as a puppy a little difficult since he had a short attention span, but as he got older, he prefers his family’s undivided attention to show off his recollection skills!
Dutta, T., Bhattacharyya, S., Dey, S., & Platos, J. (2020, June 2). Border collie optimization. IEEE Xplore. Retrieved from https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/9106341
Pilley, J. W., & Reid, A. K. (2011). Border collie comprehends object names as verbal referents. Behavioural Processes, 86(2), 184–195. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2010.11.007