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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Send Us Your Young Adult "Teenage" Dog Nutrition Questions

Do you have a "teenage" dog? We want your nutrition questions! This Thursday, September 13, we’ll be with a handful of bloggers participating in The Nutro Company's NATURAL CHOICE® Young Adult Interactive Chat with celebrity veterinarian, Dr. Jeff Werber.

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Dr. Werber on the Dr. Oz Show

Nutro is launching an entirely new pet food specifically for dogs between six months and one year old. As a dog grows from a young pup into an adult their developmental needs change with them. Cleo is a senior dog but some of you may be interested in information regarding this lifestage -- Email me your questions to ask Dr. Werber:

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How to care for senior companion animals

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A LEADING Australian vet is warning pet owners to be aware of the requirements elderly pets may need as they grow into their golden years.

Mark Perissinotto, head vet at, said knowledge and research had ensured advancements in veterinary care over recent years and our beloved pets were now living longer than ever before, although not all owners actually knew when their pet was to be considered "senior".

"Most owners are unaware of what is to be considered an animal's senior years," Dr Perissinotto said.

Read the full story


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Non-surgical sterilization method offers potential for neutering male dogs

Known as 'zeutering' because of the use of Zinc, this non-surgical castration is inexpensive and less invasive than surgery. This could be a cost-effective option for many shelters. It will be interesting to see whether its use grows across the U.S. 


Last month, Multnomah County Animal Services launched a trial using Zinc neutering, a new way of neutering male dogs. image from

The Troutdale shelter is the first agency in the Portland metro area to offer the procedure, and the trial garnered interest from as far away as the U.K.

The process is a non-surgical castration procedure. “Zeutering,” as it is sometimes known, consists of locally injecting a compound of Zinc gluconate and arginine, which destroys sperm-producing cells without greatly impacting hormone levels. Proponents say it’s a much cheaper and less invasive alternative to surgery.

“I think it’s great to have it as an option, especially for people who don’t want their dogs surgically castrated,” says MCAS veterinarian Dr. Meghan Romney.

Romney is among only six veterinarians in Oregon trained in the procedure and about 30 to 40 nationwide, says Dr. Byron Maas of Bend Veterinary Clinic in Bend.

Maas is also a master trainer with Ark Sciences, the company that developed the compound. It’s known as Zeuterin in the United States and as Esterisol in Mexico, Bolivia, Panama and Colombia (in Colombia, it also has approval for use in cats).

Zeuterin recently received approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in dogs between the ages of three and 10 months old. Approval for use in all dogs ages three months and older is pending.

Read the full story

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Prevention: What people can do to prevent dog bites

Dog Bite Prevention Week is May 20-26, 2012. Understanding the basics about dog behavior is important for preventing dog bites. Read this informative piece from Kelly Gorman Dunbar about hugging a dog, or rather why you respect your dog's doggie-ness. Before having a dog, consider one who is the right mix for your lifestyle. A dog's age, breed(s), coat, health, and energy level will all impact your life together.


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"Where’d you get this little guy?" Learn the Realities of Puppy Mills

We are a country that embraces the companionship of dogs more deeply every year. Today, the dogs we have are treated as loving members of the family. As education spreads about the benefits of having a dog in your life, fewer people see a dog as merely "equipment" but as therapist, protector and healer.

About 39% of US households have at least one dog. The amount of money we are willing to spend on our furry family member is climbing. It is estimated this year, we will spend more than $20 billion on just pet food in the US. [Source: APPA] Clearly, all signs point toward a love affair that isn't ending any time soon.

Awareness. I live in San Francisco, a city well known for its fondness for dogs. We have festivals and holidays celebrating all things dog, like Pet Pride Day. We have more dogs than children living here. The Bay Area has many well respected animal care organizations, yet last October the San Francisco SPCA uncovered a sad statistic: 30% of Bay Area residents are getting their dogs from puppy mills.

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Dogs Really Do Understand Us

Great points in this story, and not just in the comment section..I really do love pet humor.


For the study, Kaminski and her colleagues compared how well chimpanzees and dogs understood human pointing. The person pointed at a visible object out of reach of the human but within reach of the animal subject. If the chimp or dog retrieved the object, he or she would be rewarded with a tasty food treat. (Chimps received fruit juice or peanuts, while dogs got dry dog food.)

The chimps bombed, ignoring the human gestures, even though they were interested and motivated to get the food rewards. The dogs aced the test.

The chimpanzees failed to comprehend the referential intention of the human in the task. They did not see the pointing as important to their goal of getting the food, so they simply ignored the people during the study. “We know that chimpanzees have a very flexible understanding of others,”

Kaminski said. “They know what others can or cannot see, when others can or cannot see them, etc.” Chimps are therefore not clueless, but they have likely not evolved the tendency to pay attention to humans when trying to achieve goals. Kaminski explained that even wolves do not have this skill.

“Wolves, even when raised in a human environment, are not as flexible with human communication as dogs,” she said. “Dogs can read human gestures from very early ages on.”

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Saving Dogs with Spinal Cord Injuries


When we help dogs, we help ourselves. This is an inspiring story brought to you in part, from our own University of California San Francisco.

Story highlights:

“It would be phenomenal if it works,” said Linda J. Noble-Haeusslein, PhD, a professor in the UCSF departments of Neurological Surgery and Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science who designed the intervention. “We are in a unique position of being able to treat a dog population where there are simply no current therapies that could effectively improve their hind limb function.”

If successful, the trials in injured dogs may lead to the development of similar treatments for people who suffer spinal cord injuries, Noble said. These are among the most expensive injuries: every person with an injured spinal cord costs the health care system millions of dollars over his or her lifetime.

Source: Saving Dogs with Spinal Cord Injuries

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Swimming and Massage Therapy Helping Chicago Dogs


“We have been able to improve conditions and problems that traditional medicine, acupuncture and chiropractors have had difficulty correcting,” he said. “Massage is more than just petting; it is directed, structured therapy to help alleviate problematic conditions.”

Massage and water therapies are widely recognized for treating people, and now are gaining popularity in the pet arena. Both owners and veterinarians tout their therapeutic benefits.

“It increases circulation, improves healing, and has a lot of benefits in general, “said Dr. Susan Liszewski, veterinarian and owner of TLC First Animal Hospital in Chicago. “Animals have a lot of things that build up over time, a lot of things they are exposed to. It really has a big impact.”

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Acupuncture for Pets | Holistic Veterinarians Help


Hagerstown, MD -- You may have heard about acupuncture for people, but how about for your four-legged friends?

13-year-old miniature Pinscher Alexis is dealing with some major health problems.

She's battling bladder cancer, kidney failure and arthritis, but her owners are trying a different kind of approach to help her conditions.

"My first reaction was let's try acupuncture," Keri Hammel said. "We've actually both have had acupuncture in the past and we try holistic approaches to medicine for ourselves, so we're trying that for our animals as well."

"Acupuncture is a way to take care of the pain in her knee and give her more mobility without causing side effects," said Dr. Randy Barbour, a veterinarian who works with Alexis.

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Shake it! How Dogs, Cats, Even Hummingbirds Keep Dry

Our dog loves to get a nice towel dry after a bath. However, when it rains on a walk, or even after we towel her off, she still shakes her money maker. As a big Shepher Husky dog, she shakes so hard, it looks like she is going to flip herself over. This interesting article shares new research about how and why dogs, cats, even hummingbirds stay dry.

Shake It! How Dogs, Cats, Even Hummingbirds Keep Dry

Via by Robert Krulwich

They don't have towels. So when they get wet, what do they do? They shake themselves into a frenzy and the water flies off like this:

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Vet Visit and Staying Positive

This morning I am at the vet with my senior dog Cleo. She is due for an annual exam, and recently seemed to be under the weather. Besides the check up, we are having her evaluated for possible new issues related to her current medications, and any extraordinary new developments. Is her vision worsening faster than expected? Is that hitch in her step the result of arthritis or something more serious internally? We hope her results will be normal for a Shepherd-Husky who is about 10 years old, and whose puppyhood wasn't the healthiest.


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Dogs Can Change Our Lives For The Better

Curiosity may cause trouble for a cat, but not for me.  My constant curiosity, about dogs and dog behavior, makes my days with my dog Cleo fly by. Her expressions, her behavior, has me so curious about what is going on insider her head. A friend of ours, Peggy Frezon, author of Dieting with my Dog, offered us a chance to ask her some questions, as part of the Dieting with my Dog "Weight Loss with a Wag" blog book tour.

Dieting with my dog cover 2 sm copy 2 for evitePeggy is the author of the new book Dieting With My Dog: One Busy Life, Two Full Figures, and Unconditional Love.

She and her dog, Kelly, are positively influencing each other towards their individual weight loss goals … Peggy’s lost 40 pounds, and Kelly’s lost six.

They are true inspirations about what it means to give fearlessly. 

And naturally, though she offered us five, we asked Peggy six questions, because we are just so curious about her life, with her dog Kelly:

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Free Therapy Sessions: Coping with loving a senior dog

Having a senior dog in your life is like having free therapy sessions. You experience many strong emotions, and you have a lot of questions that you need help answering. And like a good therapist, a dog can get you to stop, listen and be in the moment. We have a senior dog, my first. I've already experienced a lot of emotions, from the first night we adopted her.


Our dog Cleo, has been a force of nature. She has demanded that we participate in her life, and in return, she etched herself into ours. Now, six years after we brought her home, Cleo is slowing down and showing signs of age. Though I can't imagine my life without her, my brain keeps directing my eyes to stories about "the end". Because I feel that to honor Cleo, and all the hard work she has put in with us, it is my duty (and only fair) to be prepared for the inevitable, and to read those stories.

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