Brain training for old dogs

Due to the training, the dogs are better equipped at continually using their brains, allowing them to be better guardians for the home which increases safety. In this scenario, just like a person, dogs must frequently use their minds to remain sharp.(airwaves1/Flickr Creative Commons)

Dogs are a man’s best friend. They provide emotional support and can be great companions. However, keeping dogs healthy and fit may require a bit more training than what is typically assumed.

As dogs grow older, it is imperative to keep them fit because mental deterioration is common in them. According to Science Daily, “Regular brain training and lifelong learning create positive emotions and can slow down mental deterioration in old age." Similar to any other living being, dogs must be trained to use their minds in order to promote longevity.

The Messerli Research Institute in Austria decided to investigate this matter further. Young dogs and puppies had to socialize using training methods that were incorporated into their daily lives. The training was done under laboratory conditions. First, the dogs were introduced to a touch screen system. This process did not take too long for the dogs to master. Almost immediately, the dogs became touch screen masters. This also applies to old dogs, who responded well to the training.

The young dogs and old dogs played a “Dog Sudoku,” which is similar to human Sudoku but filled with tasty dog treats as incentives for the dogs to learn.

After the old dogs were exposed to the training system, they often remained willing to learn. As senior author Ludwig Huber stated, “The positive feeling created by solving a mental challenge is comparable to the feeling that older people have when they learn something new, doing something they enjoy. Regular brain training shakes not only us but also dogs out of their apathy in old age, increasing motivation and engagement and thus maximizing learning opportunities." In other words, when dogs begin a challenge and finish it, they are motivated to finish other puzzles due to the continued interest in trying something new. The willingness to continually use the mind to greater capacities is what makes the dogs engaged.

The training stimulates the mind of the dogs. Due to the training, the dogs are better equipped at continually using their brains, allowing them to be better guardians for the home which increases safety. In this scenario, just like a person, dogs must frequently use their minds to remain sharp. Dogs are known to be protectors and guardians of the home, and we want to keep this tradition intact.

It remains unknown whether dogs forget what they are taught as they get older. However, continued training with technology, such as touchscreens, allow the dogs to retain the information that they learned. The researchers at the Messerli Research Institute hope that they can extend this platform to dog trainers as well, encouraging them to cooperate with their dogs on a greater level. In order to extend this platform, it is imperative that owners consider training their dogs now, similar to the process tested at Messerli Research Institute. This will ensure that dogs continue to be lifelong companions.


Anusha Kumar is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at anusha.kumar@uconn.edu.