Playful activity post-learning improves training performance in Labrador Retriever dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)

Affenzeller, Nadja, Palme, Rupert and Zulch, Helen (2017) Playful activity post-learning improves training performance in Labrador Retriever dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Physiology & Behavior, 168 . pp. 62-73. ISSN 0031-9384

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Situations that are emotional and arousing have an effect on cognitive performance. It is thought that beta adrenergic
activation and the release of stress hormones enhance memory consolidation and lead to an increase in
memorability of emotional events. This beneficial effect has been shown in humans, non-human primates and
rodents. Techniqueswhich could enhancememory for learning specific taskswould be highly valuable, especially
in dogs, which are extensively trained to aid humans.
A pseudo-randomized, counterbalanced, between subject study designs was utilised and 16 Labrador Retrievers
ranging from 1 to 9 years of agewere trained in a 2-choice discrimination paradigm. After task acquisition, either
a playful activity intervention (N= 8) or a resting period (N= 8) took place, lasting for 30 min.
A range of factors including age, sex, training experience and trials to criterion on each day was subjected to a
multiple factor/covariate General Linear Model analysis. The results show that playful activity post-learning improved
training performance evidenced by fewer trials needed to re-learn the task 24 h after initial acquisition
(playful activity group: mean number of trials 26, SD 6; resting group: mean number of trials 43, SD 19, effect
size 1.2). Average heart rate, as a measure of arousal, during the interventionwas significantly higher in the playful
activity group (143 beats/min, SD 16) versus the resting group (86 beats/min, SD 19, P b 0.001). Salivary cortisol
did not significantly differ between groups during training, however a significant decrease (T:−4.1 P b 0.01)
was seen after the playful activity.
To our knowledge this is the first evidence that posttraining activity may influence training performance in dogs.

Keywords:dog, memory, consolidation, play, rest, activity
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D322 Animal Physiology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
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ID Code:25221
Deposited On:01 Dec 2016 14:45

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