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New Study Finds Novel Way to Mentally Stimulate Dogs in Old Age

By: Julie Hand
February 7, 2018

New Study Finds Novel Way to Mentally Stimulate Dogs in Old Age

You might think that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but a fascinating new study[1] suggests that you can — and should — engage Fido’s brain in his old age. Regular brain training and lifelong learning fosters positive emotions that slow down mental deterioration in old age. However, due to physical limitations that come with age, older dogs aren’t regularly exposed to mentally stimulating activities like fetch or even a walk in the dog park to interact with other furry friends. This new study found that even simple computer games kept dogs mentally challenged, and were like Sudoku for the brain.

Dogs respond positively to cognitive training and remain willing to learn, study concludes

The researchers taught the dogs to complete brain teasers using touch-screen computers that they tapped with their noses. Dogs received a reward after completing each mental task. While the dogs underwent a period of adjustment to using the touch screens, once they had it down, they showed a knack for computer gaming. The old dogs responding positively to the cognitive training and remained willing to learn. “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”, says senior study author Ludwig Huber. It also strengthens the bond between pet and owner.

Video Via Vetmeduni Vienna

Like humans, mental deterioration decelerates with brain training in dogs

The study reveals that dogs, like humans, are able to learn even in old age. Furthermore, consistent brain training and mental problem-solving create positive emotions in dogs and decelerate mental deterioration. “As is the case with people, dopamine production in dogs also falls in old age, leading to a decline in memory and motivational drive. But this natural mental deterioration can be countered with the specific training of cognitive skills,” offers first study author Lisa Wallis.

While this particular game isn’t available for pooches just yet, there are, believe it or not, a handful of apps you can download to your iPad to play with your pet (screen protector suggested).

How to upgrade your pet’s performance to live a long and happy life

Chances are, anything you do to upgrade your performance can also be applied to your pooch. Proper diet, exercise, adequate mental/social stimulation, even good light – you name it. What specifically can you to do ensure your dog is Bulletproof? For starters, give him a raw meat and bones diet. A foundation of good food is the number-one thing you can do to improve your dog’s well-being. Read more about what Bulletproof’s founder, Dave Asprey, feeds his dachshund Merlin here.  

Diet: Barebones, follow Bulletproof Diet’s human principles and apply them to your pet.

  •    Go with raw meat and liver powder.
  •    Add butter, Brain Octane Oil, and krill oil.
  •    Increase overall fat intake to 50-60%.
  •    Calories will likely be higher than previously.

Exercise: Get your dog out to exercise every day, especially if he’s young and healthy.

  •    A daily jaunt can create bonding with you and even interaction with other four-legged friends.
  •    For dogs with movement challenges, read here to learn how Dave exercises with Merlin.
  •    You can also try Pulsed Magnetic Field Therapy (PMF), which Dave uses on Merlin to stimulate his joints and muscles.

Social & mental stimulation: Dogs need the same social and mental stimulation that people do, especially as they age.

  •    Even simple games to stimulate your pup’s mind, liking tossing a ball and having him return it to you, will work. Bottom line: Get your pooch engaged with you because, after all, he or she is a social creature too.
  •    Go to the dog park. Even if your pup is older and unable to run, the interaction with other dogs is a win.
  •    Discipline is also an important source of mental stimulation, as it gives your dog’s mind a chance to work out a particular problem. Training your dog with rewards keeps him engaged with a mental challenge, and always learning new tricks. Pick up a book on dog tricks if you don’t have one already.

BONUS: Good light: Just as light therapy works on humans, specific light helps your furry friend to stay young. To learn more about the benefits of red light therapy on humans, read here.

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