Let Sleeping Dogs Lie and They'll Learn Better

A nap after a training session helps dogs remember training.

A new study has revealed a better way to train dogs, and it doesn't require learning any new techniques or buying state-of-the-art equipment.

It just requires a nap.

Sleeping May Cement Long-Term Memories in Dogs

Most of the sleep research done in the past has been conducted on humans and rodents. Because there is a large variation in sleep habits between species, there may be differences in what sleep is used for.

It's widely thought by psychologists that sleep and memory are intertwined in humans, with sleep allowing short-term memories to be consolidated and transformed into long-term memory.

Researchers recently conducted a series of tests in dogs to determine the effects of sleep on training.

The study worked like this:

First, 15 dogs were divided into 2 different groups. Dogs in the first group were taught some new commands in English. They already knew the same commands in Hungarian. The second group of dogs just practiced the commands they already knew in Hungarian rather than learning anything new. EEG recordings were taken of all the dogs' brain activity during the training sessions.

Next, the dogs were allowed to nap for 3 hours, during which their brain activity was also recorded via EEG. The dogs that had learned new commands in English during the training sessions had significantly different brain activity while they slept than the dogs that hadn't been taught anything new. When they woke up, the dogs that had learned new commands were asked to perform them again, and they did better than they had done prior to sleeping.

For the second phase of the study, a group of 53 dogs were divided into 4 smaller groups. The dogs were all trained to learn new commands in English. Afterward, each of the 4 groups did a different activity: sleeping, walking, playing with a Kong toy, or more training.

After an hour of the second activity, dogs were asked to follow the newly learned English commands again. All of the dogs did better except those that had more training during the hour after the initial training. Dogs that played with a Kong did a bit better but not as well as dogs that walked or slept in the hour after the initial training session.

Conclusion: How to Make Your Dog Training Stick

When you are training your dog to do something new, it's probably best to stick to short training sessions followed by a period of "rest." That rest may be anything that isn't related to learning something new, but exercise and sleep seem to have the greatest positive effects on retention.

Rest periods after training seems to allow a dog's brain to transfer the newly made short-term memories related to the training session into long-term memories.

If you would like to train your dog using a Kong toy or just want to give him hours of fun play, you can buy a Kong toy here.


Works Cited

  1. Anna Kis, S. S. (2017, Feb. 6). The interrelated effect of sleep and learning in dogs (Canis familiaris); an EEG and behavioural study. Retrieved from nature.com: DOI: 10.1038/srep41873.

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