The Border collie is becoming a notable face in the list of the smartest dog breeds as it continuously tops the line-up. It is an impressive feat that earned Border collies the title of being the smartest dog in the world. From its nimbleness in agility competitions to its brilliance in being able to understand and memorise a thousand words, the Border collie proves that it deserves such title.
A Bit of History
In 43 AD, the inquisition led by Emperor Claudius had victoriously conquered Britain. This marked the start of Britain’s subjugation under the Roman Empire.
The traditions, beliefs and occupations of the Romans were later on adopted by the British people. Some of these Roman occupations created a big impact on British life’s prospect and are still observed and practised in the UK in modern times.
Dog breeding, for instance, was a business introduced by the Romans to the British people. When the Roman legion began to occupy the conquered British lands, they also brought their own livestock which consists of sheep, cattle and goats. These animals were under the keen supervision of large, heavy-boned herding dogs.
When the Roman Empire fell, the vicious Viking raiders took advantage of the opportunity to invade and pillage Britain. And just like the Romans, the Vikings brought their dogs too. The pooches were described as petite and swifter spitz-type herders that were considered as the predecessors of contemporary dog breed such as the Icelandic Sheepdog.
The cross-breeding between the aged Roman dogs and the Viking spitzes created a new firm and agile type of dog breed that is more than capable of herding. This new breed is able to sufficiently handle the rough and hilly highlands of Wales and Scotland. This is where Border collies originated.
Ranked as the Smartest Dog Breed
The innate intelligence, easy trainability, resolute obedience and steadfast eagerness to work are the prominent abilities that most Border collies possess. This dog breed is seen as the most trainable dog for assisting and accomplishing intricate tasks compelled by their strong herding instincts.
“The Intelligence of Dogs”, a book written by Stanley Coren, a neuropsychological researcher noted for his study and knowledge pertaining to canine behaviour, ranked 131 breeds of dogs based on the three types of canine intelligence: working and obedience, adaptive and instinctive. The research entailed an evaluation of the canine’s ability of observation, memory, solving aptitude, social training and obedience.
In the end, the Border collie is tagged as the smartest dog breed out of all 131 dog breeds. Its canine intelligence particularly fits into the working and obedience category of canine intelligence. This means that a Border collie has a swift ability in understanding new and simple commands in a span of fewer than five repetitions and is capable of recalling these commands without any need for additional practice. They are able to execute the first instruction given by their handler around 95 per cent of the time or higher.
It is also worth noting that they are able to quickly obey the command despite their owners being a distance away from them. According to the book, the dog breeds that topped the rank of canine obedience and working intelligence also have the capacity to learn well even with inexperienced trainers.
Proofs of a Border Collie’s High Intelligence
Rico is a Border collie that has the astounding ability to learn 200 words. Another impressive skill he has is being able to understand the meaning of new words just on the first time hearing it.
Rico’s first experience in obeying fetching commands began when he was ten months old. Susanne Baus, his owner, would set three different toys in various locations around her home and would, later on, instruct Rico to fetch them. After the successful accomplishment of the task, Rico would be rewarded with playtime or food. This feat, later on, leads to the Border collie racking up a remarkable and wide vocabulary.
His ability caught the attention of Dr Julia Fischer and her colleagues from the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. They put Rico under a series of controlled experiments where he was able to accurately retrieve 37 out of 40 toys just by remembering its names when announced.
They then proceeded to assess the Border collie’s ability to learn and understand new words. The researchers placed seven familiar toys in a room. Set together with those toys is another one that Rico has never seen before. His owner would then command him to retrieve the toy using an unfamiliar word. Rico was able to successfully achieve six correct answers out of ten. One month later, the Border collie was able to correctly recollect the toy’s name in three out of six sessions.
Rico was able to associate the new word to the unfamiliar object. This ability is called fast mapping. Fast mapping is usually used by kids as they develop their linguistic abilities. According to the researchers, Rico’s fast mapping ability is comparable to three-year-old toddlers.
Chaser is the Border collie that is known to have memorised and understood approximately more than a thousand words. She is also able to understand a few simple sentences.
John Pilley, her owner, and Alliston Reid who are both psychologists in Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, fastidiously trained and challenged the limitations of her intelligence. It was their way of discovering if there was a limit to the number of words a Border collie could understand.
In the course of three years, John and Alliston utilised various objects such as children’s toys in order to teach her nouns. They individually introduced 1022 toys to Chaser, and then directed her to retrieve the toy that they have named and repeated the name again in order to reinforce the association.
Additionally, Chaser’s vocabulary was tested daily. The team would pick twenty toys that are chosen at random and then these were placed in a separate room, where Chaser must fetch them by name. The results show that Chaser was able to complete 838 of this daily vocabulary test over three years. Impressively, she never scored less than 18 out of 20.
Another amazing ability that Chaser possesses is her ability to properly categorise the items according to their shape and function. It is worth noting that this capability is learned by children who are around the age of three.
Just like any other canine companion
Border Collies may be considered as the Einstein of pooches and lots of people would want to consider adopting one. However, Border collies are no different from other canine companions that need love, care, and training in order to become great companions. Therefore, a pet parent must commit to guiding them every step of the way.