All dog owners would know how intelligent our dogs are, how readily they will learn new things. Training has many positive effects from health to the relationship between dogs and owners, and also an increased ability to solve problems.
What difference does the training make?
In this particular study the researchers used a food box, and dogs were assigned to two different groups according to their training experience. The first group comprised dogs that had no/basic training, while the second group had highly trained dogs. The dogs saw how to open the box before being allowed to access it. The results showed that highly trained dogs were more successful in opening the box and spent more time interacting with the apparatus than the untrained dogs. On the other hand, the untrained dogs spent more time looking back at their owners and the researcher.
Neither was specifically trained on how to get the food out of the box but both were shown the solution. Can we assume that the trained dogs paid closer attention because they were used to learning and performing specific tasks? Or was it more about their improved ability thanks to the various problems their previous trainings offered them?
Comparing therapy dogs
Assistance and therapy dogs are specifically trained to help humans, relying on their own performance to solve problems so they outperformed both previous groups in successfully opening the box. While they have to be attentive to their owners, once they understand the task, they learn to carry it out independently.
They don’t give up
Part of problem-solving is to keep at it. While the solution might not come quickly, it can come later if we don’t give up. Trained dogs are better at working longer on the problem than non-trained dogs which also increased their success rates.
It’s harder to mislead them
While trained dogs do look at their owners for help, they don’t follow them blindly – another aspect of cognitive intelligence. This study asked owners to point at the smaller pile of food, asking their dogs to go to it, instead of the bigger reward in the other pile. Higher trained dogs went to the higher quantity more often than non-trained dogs.
Breed doesn’t matter but species does
These results emphasize that socialization and common activities with the dog might overcome the possible breed differences, if we give the dogs common problem solving, or social learning tasks. However another experiment involving similarly raised family dogs and miniature pigs showed that dogs are more ready to involve humans in solving the problem than pigs were.
In conclusion, training is not only fun, but can improve problem-solving abilities of dogs, prompting them to work independently and persistently. Even if sometimes they create the problem for themselves 🙂
2 thoughts on “Dog Training and Problem Solving”
It makes a lot of sense. Thank you for an interesting post.
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Thank you, found these studies quite interesting, I read more of them if I share it so win-win 🙂
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