Some dogs can learn new words after hearing them only four times

Whisky, an exceptionally talented dog, with her toys.

(CNN)Some talented dogs can learn new words after hearing them only four times, according to a new study.

Most dogs do not learn words unless they are extensively trained -- but a team of researchers has found that some outstanding pets have "exceptional abilities."
Researchers from Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest observed two "gifted" dogs: A Border Collie named Whisky, and a Yorkshire terrier called Vicky Nina, and tested their ability to learn a new word after hearing it only four times.
    "We wanted to know under which conditions the gifted dogs may learn novel words. To test this, we exposed Whisky and Vicky Nina to the new words in two different conditions," Claudia Fugazza, first author of the study and a researcher at the department of ethology, said.
    One scenario was an exclusion-based task, and another was within a social, playful context with their owners.
    "Importantly, in both conditions the dogs heard the name of the new toy only four times," Fugazza said.
    Presented with seven known toys and one new toy, the dogs were able to select the new toy when presented with a new name. Researchers say this proves that dogs can choose by exclusion -- when confronted with a new word, they selected and retrieved the only toy which did not have a known name.
    However, when researchers presented two newly named toys and asked them to retrieve one, they failed.
    Vicky Nina among her toys. While preliminary evidence seems to show that most dogs do not learn words (i.e. names of objects), unless eventually very extensively trained, a few individuals have shown some exceptional abilities.