People have been using the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” for years now. It suggests that, by the time a person or pet reaches a certain age, they can’t be taught to change their behaviors and learn new ways to act.
But a study that was done in Vienna, Austria recently seems to suggest otherwise. It found that dogs might be able to keep their minds sharp and increase cognitive activity by learning a new trick involving technology and touchscreens.
As part of the study, which was held at the Vienna-based Clever Dog Lab, more than 100 older dogs were trained to use a touchscreen to take part in an activity that involved them touching the screen with their noses in exchange for a treat. Researchers first had to get the dogs to understand the concept of touching the screens, which took three phases of training, but once that was done, dogs were taught that if they touched a yellow dot on the screen, they would receive a treat. Initially, the dot showed up on the screen in the same spot time after time, but eventually, researchers moved the dot to other parts of the screen and even added a second dot to try and throw the dogs off.
The researchers were encouraged by the findings related to their study. While some of the dogs didn’t necessarily understand the game they were playing, many of them did and responded positively to the exercise. By speaking with the dogs’ owners, the researchers learned that many of them looked forward to their weekly trips to the lab and demonstrated signs of improved enthusiasm. They also learned that they might be able to use the techniques used in their study to analyze the cognitive functions of individual dogs, especially those that seem to be showing signs of cognitive impairment.
In the end, the Clever Dog Lab researchers didn’t run any psychological or neurological tests on the dogs used in the study. So they readily admitted that their study shouldn’t be considered definitive proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks. But they did point out that it could help lay a foundation for future studies, and it could lead to big developments when it comes to understanding the way older dogs think and behave.
Do you want to get a better understanding of how dogs behave in an effort to become a dog trainer? Dog Trainer College offers courses that will allow you to start training dogs within as little as just 4 to 6 weeks. Call 812-650-2394 for more information on our courses.