Our dogs love their toys, and many of them have favorite toys. Many dogs are also able to retrieve a particular toy when their owners name it, i.e., “Bring me Bear.”
Researchers at the Family Dog Project, a Hungarian academic research institute that studies the behavioral and cognitive aspects of the dog-human relationship, recently examined how dogs “think” about their toys.
They tested how traditional family dogs and so-called “gifted” dogs (looking at you, Border Collies!) respond to commands to get a named toy.
They found that both traditional and gifted dogs could recognize the requested toys. Both groups also used their senses of sight and smell to help them find the toy among other toys.
The researchers found that all the dogs had an easier time finding the toys in a lighted room than in a dark room. They generally preferred to use their sense of sight over their sense of smell. They spent more time sniffing around in dark rooms than in light rooms.
They concluded that dogs pay attention to their toys’ different features and use multiple senses to register the identifying information about their toys.
Here’s a video describing the project and showing the dogs in action. You can read the study article in the journal Animal Cognition.