Research has shown that humans and dogs share an interesting trait regarding memory retention.
Nadja Affenzeller of the University of Lincoln in the UK carried out trials involving dogs that highlighted this behavioral similarity.
The trials carried out on sixteen dogs involved the dogs performing task based exercises with objects that they were not used to.
After ten trials and with all of the dogs achieving a level of proficiency in the tasks, the dogs were split into two groups.
The first group of eight dogs were walked to a play area, engaged in a ten minute play session that involved retrieving balls, tug toys etc and then walked back.
The second group of eight dogs were simply given a bed to lie down on for thirty minutes with the researchers mindful not to let them fall asleep.
The dogs returned to perform the same tasks again the next day and the results were interesting.
Dogs that were rewarded with play sessions immediately after learning tasks were shown to perform the same tasks more quickly the next day than dogs who had rested
The play session dogs re-learned the tasks in an average 26 trials against an average of 43 trials for the rested dogs.
In humans, It is thought that positive acts stimulate a hormonal response in our declarative memory. The declarative memory is essentially our memory for events and facts. The trials seem to indicate a similar effect in dogs as the play sessions could be considered a positive stimulus.
The study was carried out using one pure breed (Labrador Retrievers). The previous training experience and the age of the dogs was distributed evenly across the rested dogs and dogs allowed the post-session play.
The significant variant in the results of the next day second trials did lead the report to conclude that:
To our knowledge this is the first evidence that post-training activity may influence training performance in dogs
We always advise owners to keep dog training sessions short and reinforce a small amount of commands to dogs that have been previously exercised (to burn off excess energy) and allowed a toilet break (to aid concentration).
This research shows that it may be worthwhile engaging in a play session with your dog after they have taken in and learned a new command to potentially aid their post-training session memory.
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