Montana dog becomes local celebrity for his math skills

SALMON, Idaho Wed Aug 17, 2011 12:39am IST

Related Topics

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - Labrador Retrievers are known for their hunting skills and friendly dispositions, but Beau, a black Lab who lives in Montana, is winning acclaim for his math abilities.

Owner David Madsen says if he tells Beau there are six dogs at the park and three dogs leave, and then asks him how many are left, the dog replies: "Woof, woof, woof."

Beau has achieved a degree of celebrity for his counting skills, becoming a star on visits to shops, restaurants and cabins in the Flathead Lake resort in Montana where the Madsen family spends summers.

"He counts, he adds and subtracts, he can do some division and has memorized square roots," Madsen said.

Although a dog with math skills better than plenty of humans seems incredible, the local fire chief says he vouches for the dog's talents.

"Dave will say, 'What's two and three?' Then the dog will go, 'Bark, bark ... bark, bark, bark,'" said Chris Ricciardi, chief of the Finley Point-Yellow Bay, Montana Fire Department.

He said the dog performs impromptu demonstrations at his family's restaurant, Ricciardi's, near Flathead Lake.

"This dog is amazing," the fire chief said.

Madsen, a retired AT&T executive, adopted the puppy a dozen years ago and began teaching him math basics when he showed signs of being intelligent. As a puppy, Beau invented games and crafted intricate strategies to avoid capture, he said.

"I've had dogs all my life, but this dog is different. He's super smart," Madsen said.

He taught Beau to count using dog biscuits, laying out a handful and rewarding the dog when the number of his barks corresponded to the number of treats.

"He caught on that rewards were associated with the correct number of barks," Madsen said.

The dog had a chance at nationwide fame when he auditioned in Savannah, Georgia for the "Stupid Pet Tricks" segment on the CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman."

Beau didn't make the cut, but a local station showed clips of his performance and he became the talk of the town.

Madsen, who says his canine calculator is accurate about 85 percent of the time, said he was not signaling the dog in any fashion and has allowed others to quiz Beau in his absence.

Brandon Bretz, manager of Bretz RV and Marine in Missoula, Montana, said he recently watched Beau in action.

"A group of us were standing there and Dave asked Beau, 'How many girls are here?' There were two and Beau barked twice," Bretz said. "Next, Dave asked, 'How many boys?' Beau barked five times even though there were only four guys.

"Then it dawned on us. Beau is a boy, and he was counting himself," he said, adding that he has booked Beau as guest speaker next spring for his company's annual customer appreciation barbecue.

"There's no trick to Beau's tricks. That dog is on the up and up," Bretz said.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Johnston)

FILED UNDER:
Photo

After wave of QE, onus shifts to leaders to boost economy

DAVOS, Switzerland - Central banks have done their best to rescue the world economy by printing money and politicians must now act fast to enact structural reforms and pro-investment policies to boost growth, central bankers said on Saturday.

Music

Reuters Showcase

Obama's Message

Obama's Message

In parting shot, Obama prods India on religious freedom.  Full Article 

Armyman Killed

Armyman Killed

Indian army colonel killed in Kashmir fighting.  Full Article 

Uber in Delhi

Uber in Delhi

Uber scraps commissions for its New Delhi taxis.  Full Article 

Company Earnings

Company Earnings

Maruti promises clarity on cash plans.  Full Article 

Japan Hostages

Japan Hostages

Japan vows to work with Jordan to secure hostage release.  Full Article 

RK Laxman Dead

RK Laxman Dead

'Common Man' cartoonist RK Laxman dead at 93  Full Article 

India’s Male Tenor

India’s Male Tenor

India’s lone male tenor wants to ‘Indianise’ opera  Full Article 

Facebook Outage

Facebook Outage

Hacker group claims it is behind outages at Facebook, other sites  Full Article 

U.S. Blizzard

U.S. Blizzard

`Life-threatening' blizzard shuts down much of U.S. Northeast  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage