Cognitive development and aging in pet dogs

Lisa Wallis, Friederike Range, Zsófia Virányi

In this project we investigate the development and aging of various physical as well as social cognitive functions across 5 age groups from subadult to aged dogs kept as pets in usual Western European households.

Preliminary results of pet dogs tested in their natural environment found some age group differences. Very little is known, however, when dogs become cognitively mature and when their cognitive decline begins as they get older. We have developed two approaches that taken together will reveal a more complete picture of cognitive development and aging in dogs. Since different cognitive skills probably develop with different speed, a test battery is needed in order to fully explore dogs’ cognitive development and aging.

We are hoping to model the age-related changes of the 5 most important domains of dog cognition – individual problem solving and reasoning abilities; learning, memory and trainability; physical cognition; social attentiveness; and social cognition.