Cool new findings about which, what and how dogs learn!
We haven’t completely processed this recently released research (Wallis, Lisa, Virányl, Z, et al. 2016; download it below) but wanted to pass it on to you because it’s interesting in so many ways. “Aging Effects on Discrimination Learning, Logical Reasoning and Memory in Pet Dogs,’ just published in Age, gives us insight into the effect of age on how dogs learn, as well as the effect of sex, types of objects, how often the dogs are rewarded, and more.
So what did the researchers do?
Privately-owned border collies, from 5 months to nearly 14 years, were taught to use a computer touch screen to select a specific image from among other images. First, they were taught to use the screen, then they were taught to discriminate between images based on various criteria, from shape to type (photo or drawing) to newness. If they selected the right image, they got a treat. Once fully trained, if they selected the wrong image, there was a noise, the screen turned red and the test was repeated. All the dogs went through the training and testing before taking a six-month break before being retested to see how much of the training they remembered.
All kinds of data were collected. Dogs were divided into five groups by age, from the youngest group of 5 to 12 month olds, to the oldest group, which averaged 8 1/2 years old. The researchers also compared males to females and considered what they were asking the dogs to learn and how they were rewarding and correcting them.