London: Contrary to the timeless proverb, you can teach an old dog new tricks — and though they may be slow learners, they display superior logic than puppies, reveals a new study.
Using a series of touchscreen tests, researchers from Austria conducted a study on the effect of ageing on cognitive processes such as learning, memory and logical reasoning in pet dogs of varying ages.
The study provides measures associated with normal cognitive ageing in Border collies — fast learning popular breed of pet dog — and thus could be used as a basis for breed comparisons as well as early recognition and treatment of certain cognitive deficits, said the researchers from the Messerli Research Institute at Vetmeduni in Vienna.
Older dogs learn more slowly and displayed lower cognitive flexibility, the study showed. The older dogs required more trials than younger ones before they were able to solve the given task correctly, the research said.
“The test showed that older dogs are less flexible in their way of thinking than younger ones. As in people, older dogs find it more difficult to change old habits or what they have learned,” said Lisa Wallis from the Messerli Research Institute at Vetmeduni in Vienna.
Dogs’ logical reasoning improved with age, revealed the study. The older the dog, the better it performed, while younger dogs were unable to master the tasks given, probably because older dogs more stubbornly insist on what they have learned before and are less flexible than younger animals, the researchers said.
The tests also revealed that dogs’ long-term memory is not affected by age.
The study was conducted with 95 Border Collies on a touch-sensitive monitor, ranging in age from five months to 13 years.
The dogs were divided into five age groups and tested in four tasks. These were designed to test three cognitive abilities: learning, logical reasoning and memory.