The effect of age on visuo-spatial short-term memory in family dogs
EditorUniversidad de Córdoba, Departamento de Medicina y Cirugía Animal
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Decline in the visuo-spatial memory domain may be an early marker for cognitive decline and has a relevant impact on animal welfare. Current research on visuo-spatial memory in family dogs is often limited by factors such as the need of extensive pre-training, limited attention to co-occurring medical conditions, a focus on laboratory dogs, or low sample size. Therefore, we aimed to develop a test that relies on visuospatial short-term memory, may be performed in a short time, and does not require explicit training. We tested a large sample of young and old dogs, finding that young dogs were more likely to perform correctly, although performance decreased with consecutive trials in both age groups. However, groups did not vary in the severity of mistakes. This task represents the first measure of dogs’ age-related decline of short-term spatial memory that does not require explicit training. The test could potentially be used in veterinary behaviour contexts to monitor cognitive changes in ageing dogs, utilizing a simple binary measure of success.