Maybe you have heard of a dog learning to talk, but how about a dog mastering math?
Meet Stewie! This five-year-old Scottish terrier has been learning new skills since he was three months old, and recently added arithmetic to his repertoire.
“It was clear from the beginning that Stewie was special. My teacher husband Mauro noted how much Stewie reminded him of his gifted students,” Stewie’s owner Ian told PEOPLE.
The first signs of Stewie’s genius appeared shortly after Ian and his husband brought the canine home as a 10-week-old puppy.
“Like most puppies he would wait by the door and bark at it when he wanted to go out. But after a few weeks when he had to go number two he would instead enter one of the bathrooms and start barking at the toilet, having made the somewhat embarrassing connection on his own of what really goes on behind those closed doors,” Ian shared.
After figuring out bathroom logistics, Stewie “figured out on his own how to open the closet doors and get to the toy of his choosing,” and soon after that he was working on expanding his vocabulary.
“I have always believed in talking to my dogs,” Ian said, adding that he found through talking to his dogs that canines can have “enormous vocabularies.”
“One day I was getting ready to take Stewie out and, as I usually did, I reminded him that I was using the ‘brush’ and then putting on his ‘collar’ and ‘harness’. But this day, when I grabbed the keys to go he hit the brakes and refused to budge. Then I saw that he was looking at the keys and once I said ‘keys’ we were good to go,” Stewie’s owner offered as another example of the dog’s intelligence.
“It had never occurred to me to teach him the word for keys because I just didn’t think it was relevant or something he would be remotely interested in. Anyway, that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, one which I realized could never be a one-way street where I merely imposed all my expectations or wishes.”
From here, Ian decided to test the depth of Stewie’s learn capabilities and started working on trying to teach the Scottie math.
“When it came time to educate Stewie I read up on literally everything there was about animal intelligence,” Ian said. These studies led him to Chaser the Border Collie, a dog that learned to differentiate between over 2000 toys and fetch them by name, according to Ian, with help from her owner, a retired psychology professor named John Pilley Jr.
“I wondered if instead of 2000 toys I could teach Stewie to differentiate between 2000 numbers. I basically replaced one kind of object, a toy, with a different object, a wooden number, teaching him not just the name of each object (‘one,’ ‘two’…) but also showing him the corresponding numerical value of that object (represented by one penny, two pennies, and so on),” Stewie’s owner shared. “Once I realized I could teach Stewie how to count, I taught him to do math exactly the way I remember learning it myself.”
As the video above shows, Stewie quickly took to his 45-minute math classes, which occur five times a week, “because he never misses an opportunity to remind me how much smarter than me he is,” Ian said of Stewie’s skills.
“In the video I ask Stewie addition and subtraction questions and Stewie answers by picking up the correct number and placing it on an answer line (the line of rectangles directly in front of him as he begins the task),” Ian added about his teaching process.
“The numbers from Stewie’s P.O.V. are 1 through 9 with 0 at the end, next to the 9. The numbers are always in the same relative position in all of the math exercises. The best way to understand this is that Stewie is in effect ‘writing’ his answers on the answer line.”
Because the Scottie has been such a star student, Ian recently started teaching Stewie multiplication and division, and the dog is already acing his pop quizzes.
As long as Stewie continues to show interest, Ian plans on teaching his beloved dog new skills. Perhaps, how to do taxes will be next.
While Ian is awed by his genius pooch, what he loves most about Stewie is not the canine’s brains, but his personality.
“He is opinionated and prone to tantrums, but at heart a sweet boy,” Ian said. “Of course, he is highly intelligent, but what I love about him most is his sense of humor.”
To keep track of Stewie and his feats of intelligence, follow the Scottie (The Stewie Tapes) on YouTube.