Friday, September 11, 2015

Does your dog have a good memory? Test it in 4 simple steps

Pug and Boston terrier waiting for a memory test to start

Popping your dog into a training class is a great way to gauge both memory and working intelligence. Those dogs that pick things up in a snap and then retain that information between training sessions tend to have something special that others just don't have.

But some of us (including most of us with Boston terriers) have little ones that are mystifying. Do they remember the lessons at all? Or do they remember them, but just refuse to do them?

I've been asking myself this question quite a bit. So I was thrilled to see this memory test highlighted in Modern Dog Magazine. With a few simple steps, the authors suggested, I could test both long- and short-term memory in my dogs.

So I tried it.

Liam and Sinead are sitting nicely for this first test in the photo above. After I got the first snap, I rubbed the inside of these cups with a smelly treat (I used Salmon Paws), and then I put Liam in a sit and flipped two outer cups over while putting a treat inside the middle cup. He watched that treat placement carefully, and then had a chance to get the treats.

Here's what happened.
Liam the pug waiting for a treat
He went right to that proper treat cup, but he didn't feel comfortable knocking it over (polite boy). So he tapped it with his foot and waited for more instructions. I'm going to call that a perfect score.

I repeated that test with Sinead, but she didn't do as well. She sniffed all three jars indiscriminately, and then sort of wandered off. I guess alternate choice memory isn't her thing.

We then did a test of short-term memory, in which I popped a treat down in front of the dogs, walked out of the room with the dogs, and then walked back into the room to see if they remembered where the treat was. I tested each dog seperately.

Liam, once again, got a perfect score. He went right to that treat. Here's where it was. So it wasn't exactly hidden.
The small dog treat is right in front of this cabinet

Sinead knew the treat was in the room, but she had to sniff a little for it. But she did find it quickly. Not quite a perfect score for her, but it's not too shabby, either.

The last test we did is much like this short-term memory test, except that it involves staying out of the room for 5 minutes before running back to allow the dog to find the treat. I only did this particular test with Liam. Sinead really doesn't love these experiments of mine. Here's how she looked this week when I tried to get her to pose in a bow tie.

Boston terrier doesn't love her bow tie
No. Just no.
I think I'd get the same response to the long memory test. So I skipped it for her.

Liam did quite well on this test, but he had an interesting response. Even though I showed him the new location of the treat at the start of the test, he went to the spot I used for the short-term memory test first. That is close to perfect, but not quite.

The last test involves moving furniture around, walking out of the room, and seeing how quickly the dogs adjust to the change (or notice that it's happened). It was 90+ degrees here yesterday, and no one felt like moving furniture. So I skipped this one.

After adjusting for the tests I skipped, I can say with confidence that Liam the pug has an above-average memory, especially for things involving food. That's not too surprising, given how much all pugs love their treats. I'd be shocked if he didn't remember this sort of thing.

Sinead's memory is in the above-average range, which isn't too shabby at all. But it does tell me that Liam remembers more than she does, and that might be why she's always trying to beat him through doorways, to the toy basket, etc. She might be trying to compensate for his ability to head right back for the last thing they were doing. She can't remember things as well, so she needs to get there first.

This test was a fun way to spend an hour or so of time, and it was pretty tiring for the dogs to use their noggins like that. Both of them slept like logs on the couch for an hour or so afterwards. Maybe I'll do it again!

If any of you readers try it, I'd love to hear how well your dogs did. Shoot me a note in the comments!

1 comment: