Scientists have discovered that video games help keep dogs' minds sharp during the aging process, and here's the thing: it's pretty genius.
That's right: there are now touchscreen video games for dogs--and the reason for them is pretty cool. According to a new study, getting your lazy dog off the couch and actively playing these games can keep him younger longer, even when he’s too old to run through the park and play fetch.
The study, done at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, makes sense. After all, we already know how important it is for humans to keep their brains active as they age, by doing crosswords, socializing, and maybe even learning to play the guitar or speak Italian, and these Viennese vets are translating those lessons to the canine world.
To start, the vets trained elderly dogs to watch a big screen and play games like pointing at a moving dot with their nose. Instead of getting excited about scoring extra points or extra lives like a 12-year-old human might, these dogs got the ultimate doggie reward, a yummy treat.
“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,” says lead researcher Ludwig Huber. “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.”
So here’s the catch: Right now these games are only available in the lab, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own at home. How about downloading some videos of squirrels scampering or birds tweeting and asking Spot or Fido to touch it with his nose. Give him a cookie each time he does it, and voila! You’ve created your own “Sudoku for dogs.”
The only downside is wiping all that dog slobber off the screen.