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Betsy lives in Vienna, Austria with her owner, who goes by the pseudonym "Schäfer" (English: Shepherd). Betsy is also a pseudonym given to her by animal cognition researchers.[dead link] At ten weeks of age, Betsy was able to sit on command and knew numerous objects, such as a ball and set of keys, by their name and would fetch them on verbal command.[dead link] Betsy was discovered after her owner answered a request by National Geographic Magazine to submit intelligent animals for study. Betsy was one of two dogs (both of which were Border Collies) whose intelligence was beyond that of Rico, also a Border Collie, who knows over 200 words.[dead link] Betsy was featured on the cover of the March 2008 edition of National Geographic.[dead link]
Betsy has a vocabulary of more than 340 words, which rivals that of the great apes in terms of intelligence and lateral thinking. After hearing a word only twice, Betsy is able to decipher that the sound is a command or instruction and regards it as such. Betsy is believed to learn in the same way that human toddlers do, if not faster. Betsy is capable of interpreting the correlation between a two-dimensional photograph and the object it depicts, and is able to retrieve the item simply by seeing the image, despite never having seen the depicted object or the photograph before. During testing, Betsy retrieved the correct item 38 out of 40 times. Betsy knows 15 people by only their name. It is believed that Betsy's unusual intelligence can be attributed to dogs' prolonged association with humans, evolution and her breed—the Border Collie was found to be the most intelligent breed of dog by psychology professor Stanley Coren in his book The Intelligence of Dogs. Juliane Kaminski, a cognitive psychologist who tested Betsy, hypothesised that her abilities are the result of the use of the Border Collie breed as working dogs, their high motivation levels and that they historically had to pay close attention to their owners' commands when engaged in herding.
- "Animal Minds — Betsy and the Octopus". National Geographic. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
- Morell, Virginia (March 2008). "Minds of their Own". National Geographic. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
- "Animal minds — Photo Gallery". National Geographic. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
- Stein, Rob (2004-06-11). "Common Collie or Uberpooch?". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
- Musi, Vince. "Behind The Photo: Vince Musi, Animal Minds". National Geographic. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
... she gets her due being on the cover of the magazine up there with all the other famous animals who have embraced that cover ...
- Grassmann, Susanne; Kaminski, Juliane; Tomasello, Michael (2012-07-01). "How two word-trained dogs integrate pointing and naming". Animal Cognition. 15 (4): 657–665. doi:10.1007/s10071-012-0494-x. ISSN 1435-9448. PMC 3377900. PMID 22526689.
- Slobodchikoff, Con (2008-05-05). "Dogs Have Different Retrieval Strategies". Dog Behaviour Blog. Retrieved 2008-10-13. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Coren, Stanley (1995). The Intelligence of Dogs. ISBN 978-0-553-37452-0. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)