The results of this study provide insights into the cognitive abilities of typical border collie dogs in object generalisation. As a group, the dogs performed better than chance in choosing the target object, indicating the success of the training. However, there were individual differences in performance, suggesting variations in motivation, attention, learning style, and personality among the dogs.

Unlike human infants, the border collies in this study appeared to rely less on object shape and more on texture for object generalisation, which indicates that the way in which these dogs identify and categorise objects may be distinct from humans. Additionally, while the dogs showed a preference for objects with the same texture as the target, they struggled to apply this preference to objects that lacked clear visual similarities, suggesting a limited capacity for generalization.

Other animal studies have investigated categorisation abilities suggesting that animals may use alternative categorisation strategies, such as geometric symbols, relative size concepts, facial cues, and tactile cues. However, none of these studies investigates the role of texture in the categorisation abilities of animals.

In terms of evolutionary context, dogs may have developed specialised abilities to discriminate objects that are relevant to their ecological niche, potentially relying more on texture than shape in their natural environment.

In terms of social context, the dogs’ use of tactile communication in social interactions and the importance of texture in providing information about object properties suggest the significance of tactile cues in their cognitive processes.

It’s important to acknowledge that the study did not allow differentiation between choices based on texture or colour, but previous research suggests that dogs may place less importance on colour due to their dichromatic colour perception. Other features, such as texture, may be more salient and relevant in object discrimination tasks.

While certain factors like saliva and the owner’s scent were excluded, the potential role of odour in the dogs’ choices cannot be entirely ruled out, as objects made of different materials may have differed in their odour.

Overall, our study sheds light on the cognitive abilities of border collie dogs and highlights the importance of considering individual variation when studying canine cognition and behaviour.


The study investigated the object generalisation abilities of border collie dogs and examined the role of shape and texture in their discrimination abilities. The results showed that the dogs performed better than chance in choosing the target object, indicating successful training. However, individual variability in performance suggests that like humans, dogs may have differences in cognitive abilities or learning styles. Interestingly, unlike humans, the dogs did not rely on object shape for generalisation. Instead, they showed a preference for objects with the same texture as the target, suggesting that texture plays a more important role in their object discrimination. However, it is still unclear whether dogs rely solely on visual cues or incorporate other sensory modalities. These findings contribute to our understanding of canine cognition and behaviour, emphasizing the significance of texture in object discrimination tasks. Future research should investigate the effects of colour, smell, and texture on object discrimination in dogs, as well as explore the potential influence of language-related abilities on generalization. Comparing the results with Gifted Word Learner dogs could provide insights into the role of language in object discrimination and generalisation.