Is your dog clever? World Renowned Dog Cognition Scientists Launch Citizen Science Project: Finding Rico

Let’s all agree that we each have the smartest and bestest dog in the world. Now, would you also say your dog is clever? Two renowned dog cognition scientists are hunting worldwide for a very rare breed of dog – ones who can identify 20 or more objects by name.

One of the world leaders in dog cognition Dr Juliane Kaminski, Director of the Dog Cognition Centre at the Department of Psychology, University of Portsmouth, and Dr Juliane Bräuer, head of the Dog Studies Lab at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany are on a quest to find the world’s most gifted dogs.

Citizen Science Project: Find Rico

The project, Finding Rico, is named after an exceptionally gifted border collie called Rico.

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Rico, the original smartest dog CREDIT: Copyright-Susanne Baus

Rico’s owners had reported their dog’s exceptional abilities to animal psychologist Dr Kaminski and together with Julia Fischer and Josep Call, they were the first scientists to publish research on gifted dogs. Dr Kaminski devised a test which asked Rico to fetch objects which showed he understood 200 words and could recall words for weeks after being taught them.

This ability is broadly comparable to language-trained apes, dolphins, sea lions and parrots.

Rico also responded correctly to the word for a new object after hearing it just once. This suggested he had the canine equivalent of the ability to fast map, a mechanism widely used by babies and children to learn language.

Dr Kaminski’s research, published in Science in 2004 (, proving Rico was exceptional was the first study of its kind. She has subsequently built a vast body of work on dog cognition, including finding dogs are more skilful than wolves or chimpanzees at reading human signals, and said “although that was a long time ago and despite all the research since, we still do not know what makes some dogs truly exceptional”.

Dr Kaminski said: “Rico was clearly one of the most exceptionally gifted dogs, but we know there are others out there who are as gifted. We hope this citizen science project will inspire people to work with us to test their dogs’ intelligence and to establish how common such superb skill really is.”

Dr Bräuer adds: “Finding these dogs will help us understand what it is that makes these dogs so exceptionally skilled and whether they truly are the ‘Einsteins’ of the dog world.”

Think your dog is clever?

The two researchers, long-time collaborators in the field of dog cognition, have made a video, Finding Rico, in many languages in the hope of reaching dog owners far and wide!

Finding Rico videos :




Chinese (Mandarin): 





Those who think their dog is or might be as clever as Rico and who can identify at least 20 objects, are urged to get in touch with the researchers via email:



The University of Portsmouth is a progressive and dynamic university with an outstanding reputation for innovative teaching and globally significant research and innovation.

It was rated 'Gold' in the UK government's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and is ranked in the top 150 under 50 in the world according to the Times Higher Education rankings.

The University's research and innovation culture is impacting lives today and in the future and addressing local, national and global challenges across science, technology, humanities, business and creative industries.

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Like people, did you know dogs can develop diabetes too?

Until my father was diagnosed with diabetes many years, I did not know any of the signs. Almost exactly two years ago today, I saw a change in my dog's behavior that mirrored something my father did before his diagnosis. [Read: Cleo's Diabetes Diagnosis] My dog began drinking copious amounts of water. She also began to pee a lot. When this change in behavior went on for many days, we became worried and called our veterinarian. 

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My husband managed to capture our dog's first pee of the morning inside a recycled clean jar. We took that straight into the vet for testing. On a side note, I have to thank San Francisco's recyling program. If not for our habit of recyling everything we can, getting this pee sample would have been a lot more complicated.

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Be Kind - Dogs experience emotions like us

New research has come out on how human and canine brains work. For me, I am not surprised that it seems to prove that when it comes to emotion and perception, the human and dog brain is crazy similar in its wiring. When I read the piece, honestly I got distracted a little by the relief I felt when reading about the dogs used in the study. They trained the dogs to hold still so an MRI could be done without anesthesia. Since I don't like when people try to get a dog to let them put a paper hat on their head, when the dog clearly isn't okay with it, you can imagine how I felt here.

Dogs have feelings too - Daily Mail

"The ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment, would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child. And this ability suggests a rethinking of how we treat dogs." 

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I think my dog's personality is due more to nurture than nature

"Psychologists use the word “personality” to mean those characteristics a person displays that allow us to predict how they will behave, react and feel in various situations. Some scientists, however, are uncomfortable about using the word personality when talking about non-human animals. They use the word “temperament” instead. Although the average person will see little difference between the two terms, using a different label allows the scientist to suggest that there are still significant qualitative differences between the behaviours of people and animals.

But what is personality? What leads to personality differences among breeds? What leads to differences in personality even among individuals within the same breed? Biology teaches us that there are two main ingredients that contribute to making all of us what we are: genetics (“nature”) and the environment (“nurture”). In dogs a large proportion of their personality is due to their inherited genes."

This is the start of a fascinating article titled, "Does Genetics Determine Dog's Personality?" on Psychology Today. I believe in the human-animal bond and often wonder how much of my dog's personality is due to nature rather than nurture. We spend so much time together each day that I believe much of how she is today comes from her environment, more than the average dog in the average American household.  

Do you think you can influence your dog's personality significantly? Does nature always win out over nurture when it comes to dogs? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments!

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Pet Obesity Prevention: Is your dog overweight? Carrying extra fur?

You may think your chubby pooch is cute, but there are health risks that come with an overweight pet. Where is the line between healthy and overweight? What is the difference between breeds and species? How can I keep my dog at a healthy weight? What signs indicate health problems? Asking these questions can help you understand your dog or cat's body.
Watch your dog's weight at every stage, even when they become a senior dog like Cleo


A healthy pet will live a longer, happier and more energetic life. This helpful infographic breaks down the basics of ideal pet weight.

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Do You Have a Pet First Aid Kit?

Did you know that some common household items found in our medicine chest and first aid kits work well for both human and pet? On the flip-side, besides certain foods there are common medications that are actually dangerous for your pet. It's important to know the difference, especially in the event of an emergency when your emotions are running high and your home might be in disarray if you've been through a natural disaster. 

What goes into a pet first aid kit?

If you have pets, having a first aid kit just for them is a great idea. You won't have to worry in the moment that you are using something inappropriate or even dangerous. Nowadays you can buy pet first aid kits but it's highly likely you'll still need to customize it to fit your particular needs. If you are like us, I think you can create your own without spending more money than you need.

Start with basics like these common household items LIFE+DOG shares on their website. In addition, you should have an eye dropper, gauze, self-adhering tape, non-stick bandages, and tweezers. You'll want to have an extra leash and collar. Include copies of your pet's vaccination history and veterinarian information in a sealed plastic bag protection from the elements. What did we miss? Check out this great resource from and this valuable information about emergency preparedness for pets from PetSmart Charities.



Safe Household Medications (via

From The Magazine | L+D Health (c) LIFE+DOG Five safe household human medications for dogs We treat our dogs as members of family. We prepare their meals alongside ours, and we incorporate their exercise into our own routine. It makes sense that…


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Let's dispel a few spay/neuter myths

I believe spaying and neutering our pets is important. Neutered dogs have fewer prostate problems and no testicular cancer. It can help prevent aggressive behavior towards other animals. It helps control stray and unwanted animals in the community.
Cleo makes friends at Fort Funston

Last May I shared this story of an Oregon clinic that had begun a trial of zinc neutering, an inexpensive and non-surgical castration for male dogs. Here in the city today, the San Francisco SPCA is offering this same non-surgical sterilization in their clinic. The SF/SPCA continues to offer individual San Francisco residents free spay/neuter for pit bulls and pit mixes.

Don't live in San Francisco? Need more convincing why spay/neuter is safe and necessary for our pets?

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Why do we support PAWS? Ask the Vet

Since adopting a dog, and managing her care over the past eight years, I'm aware of how costly veterinary care is and how many questions come up every month or so. Though much of our elderly dog's care is typical, we've had a few surprise vet visits. We do our best because we love Cleo very much and she deserves our best efforts. We're fortunate that we have the resources and energy to care for her, and get her the excellent veterinary services when something comes up.

Given how much we do, and would do for our dog, I couldn't imagine what it would be like if we couldn't.This is one of the many reasons I support Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS). They provide their clients free veterinary consultative services every month. 

PAWS clients are low income seniors, people living with HIV and the disabled. For many, their animal companion is their only family and confidante - their reason to get up in the morning. Like me, they would do anything for their best friend. Like me, they can have questions about lumps and bumps on their pet, skin allergies or maybe behavioral changes in their aging dog. These are all issues I've talked extensively with my vet about.

If you know what I'm talking about then consider lending a paw and join me in supporting PAWS. Read more about this special clinic, and think about making a donation to help them keep programs like this going.


More information on Ask the Vet Clinics.

Give a Gift to support PAWS  and vital services like Ask the Vet Clinics.

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Know the signs: Diabetic Shock in Dogs

We have a dog with diabetes. She was diagnosed over a year ago. I imagine compared to many, our experience has been relatively easy. We identified the symptoms fairly quickly. Our vet was fast with test results. Her insulin dosage was pretty seamless to adjust. The internet, friends and colleagues are a wealth of resources and encouragement. I definitely felt that we responded to this significant medical change in Cleo more quickly and effectively than our experience with her allergies.

However, for every one person who knows about diabetes in dogs, there are many who do not. They usually say, "Dogs can get diabetes? I had no idea!" That moment can stop you short. It makes me think of the dogs who are discarded at shelters, or whose life is cut short because their person had this reaction.

When your dog is a member of the family, and you fuss over their care the way many Americans do, it is hard to step back sometimes and remember that you are not infallible. Your dog clearly loves you, responding to all the thoughtful care-giving and attention you provide. But unless you are a vet, or vet tech, your training is from the point of view of a concerned and loving guardian. Like most of us.


Caring for a diabetic senior dog

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Does Your Dog Eat Healthier than You?

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My dog's facial expressions can make me do things I know I shouldn't. Her eyes turn into tractor beams and in a moment, I'm leaning over the counter giving her a treat for "being so cute." Cleo is a senior dog, and she has diabetes. I know I need to be conscious of her diet, but sometimes it's hard to listen to my brain and not those sweet doggie eyes asking for a taste of what we're eating or cooking.

“Like people, dogs require a properly balanced diet to ensure they are receiving all of the nutrients necessary for proper health,” said Preston Buff, Ph.D., PAS, Dipl., Chief Natural Nutrition Officer at The Nutro Company.

Did you know that dogs are fed scraps under the table in 70% of households? According to a new survey by the makers of NUTRO® ULTRA™ Food for Dogs, I'm not alone in trying to do the right thing for Cleo's health and diet:

  • Only about half (54 percent) of owners say they feed their dog the exact serving size listed on the dog food packaging
  • 40 percent of dog owners rarely or never check the ingredients in their dog’s food
  • 36 percent of dogs eat dinner when their owners do
  • Only 29 percent of dogs follow an all-natural, holistic diet

Read the press release for more details.

Do you struggle with your dog's diet or does your dog eat healthier than you? How do you take to make your dog(s) nutritional health a priority? Share in the comments!

This post is written by a member of the Nutro Knowledge Network.

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UC Davis Veterinarians Safe Pets Holiday Tips


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Via UC Davis News

Veterinarians at the University of California, Davis, offer some helpful tips to keep your pets safe this holiday season.

Items to watch out for:

  • Chocolate — Chocolate contains ingredients that can be toxic to pets. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. While dogs are the most susceptible, cats and other species may be affected, too. It is best to avoid letting any of your pets eat chocolate. If they have eaten chocolate and show signs of anxiety, agitation or vomiting, consult a veterinarian immediately.
  • Poinsettias and holly — These traditional holiday plants can cause mild irritation to a pet’s mouth and may cause minor drooling, decreased appetite or vomiting. Seek veterinary care if these signs progress.
  • Mistletoe — In small amounts, mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal irritation, possibly resulting in drooling, vomiting or diarrhea. Larger amounts could cause more severe harm. Consult veterinary care immediately if your pet has eaten any mistletoe.
  • Electrical cords — Pets can easily be electrocuted if they chew through holiday light cords, which are usually thin and not insulated. Respiratory distress is a sign of electrocution, as well as a burn mark across the lips or tongue. Consult veterinary care immediately if your pet has these signs.
  • Tinsel — While it makes a beautiful decoration, tinsel can be deadly to your pet if swallowed. It can easily cause an intestinal blockage and leakage of the consumed material into the abdomen. If you suspect your pet has eaten tinsel, and it has a loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhea, seek veterinary care.
The best medicine may be prevention. Here is the entire story.



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Doggie Dental Care | Only the teeth you want to keep

Joyful-CleoAccording to the American Veterinary Medical Association, approximately 75% of pets over the age of three will experience signs of periodontal disease. When we adopted our dog Cleo, she had a root canal within months of coming home. She was about three years old. Adopting an adult dog, we didn't know her background but since having Cleo is for keeps, it's been important for us to learn about doggie dental care.

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Her Diabetes Diagnosis | November is Pet Diabetes Month

Cleo 4.5.09 006
One year ago we discovered that our dog was diabetic. It was a huge surprise to us. She ate well, we avoided processed people food, she wasn't fat and she got regular exercise. Our early warning sign was her sudden increase in water consumption. 

When she kept up the excessive water drinking so that we were taking her out to pee every few hours, we knew something was wrong. My elderly father had developed diabetes a few years ago, and his sudden increase in thirst had been a big sign to all of us to push him to get tested. The signs of diabetes are similar for pets and people.

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Feed your dog using new mobile app


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Ever wish you could feed your pet from afar? Meet Pintofeed, a device that lets you feed your pet using your smartphone.

Once connected to the wireless network in your home, you can activate the feeder from anywhere using a mobile app. Feedings can also be automated. T

Read the full interesting story


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