Educational touchscreen games could be used for brain training for old dogs

Scientists have shown that educational touchscreen games could help us train brain of an old dog thereby not only  creating positive emotions, but also slowing down mental deterioration of the dogs in old age.

Researchers explain that as dogs become old, they remain confined owing to their physical inability to move quickly as they did when younger. Because of physical inactivity, their brains also do not get the required exercise. A team of researchers led by cognitive biologists from Vetmeduni Vienna propose computer interaction as a practical alternative. In the training lab, old dogs responded positively to cognitive training using educational touchscreen games. The aim now is to get the interactive “dog sudoku” ready for home use.

Lifelong learning is not just good for people, it is also good for dogs. Dogs are capable of learning even in old age, and constant brain training and mental problem-solving create positive emotions and slow the natural pace of mental deterioration. Unlike puppies or young dogs, however, old dogs are almost never trained or challenged mentally.

Senior dogs are usually perfectly integrated into our lives and we often forgive them any disobedience or stubbornness. In addition, due to their increasing physical limitations, we usually spare old dogs the sort of training we might expect from young animals.

Simple mental tasks on the computer, combined with a reward system, can replace physically demanding training and still keep the animals mentally fit even in old age. First, however, the method must be taken out of the laboratory and transferred to the living room.

Under laboratory conditions, the training works using computer-based brain-teasers. It does take some preparation to get the dogs used to the touchscreen, but once the animals have got the trick they turn into avid computer gamers.

Using simple tasks that can be solved through touchscreen interaction, followed by a reward, even old dogs remain willing to learn. It is still not clear whether dogs slowly forget the things they once learned because of reduced powers of recollection or due to a lack of training in old age. The fact is, however, that lifelong learning with the touchscreen can help counteract this development.