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Old Dogs Should Learn New Tricks — and Computer Games Might Be the Key, Researchers Say

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The approach might stave off mental decline.

Just like people, dogs need lifelong learning to keep their brains sharp, researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna say.

And educational touchscreen games appear to be well-suited to the task, they found.

The researchers say regular brain training can slow down mental deterioration in aging dogs, according to a press release. But few families give older dogs the same types of training they’d give their younger counterparts.

“Yet this restricts the opportunities to create positive mental experiences for the animals, which remain capable of learning even in old age,” said first author Lisa Wallis. “As is the case with people, dopamine production in dogs also falls in old age, leading to a decline in memory and motivational drive. But this natural mental deterioration can be countered with the specific training of cognitive skills.”

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Cognitive biologists found that simple mental tasks on the computer, combined with a reward system, can replace physically demanding training and still keep the animals mentally fit.

They used tasks that can be solved through touchscreen interaction — and the dogs quickly became “avid gamers.”

 “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. Regular brain training shakes not only us, but also dogs out of their apathy in old age, increasing motivation and engagement and thus maximising learning opportunities”, said senior author Ludwig Huber.

The aim now is to get the interactive “dog sudoku” ready for home use.

The research team hopes the study will not only motivate technicians and software developers, but also interested dog owners, to consider future cooperation, according to the press release.

“Our scientific approach could result in an exciting citizen science project to increase the understanding of the importance of lifelong learning in animals,” Wallis said.

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State Considers Banning ‘No Pets’ Rental Listings

Some landlords are not happy about the proposed legislation.

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New Hampshire legislators are considering a ban on “no pets” notices in property listings.

Proposed legislation would forbid landlords and home sellers from barring pet owners, the Concord Monitor reports.

They could make rules related to pet deposits, noise control, sanitation and safety, according to the newspaper. But they could set make rules based on size, breed or appearance.

The legislation was proposed by state Rep. Ellen Read, a Democrat from Newmarket. It has drawn opposition from some landords who say it could lead to unsanitary conditions as well as allergy problems for some residents.

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But Julia Seeley, New Hampshire state director for the Humane Society, said her organization supports the bill.

We just strongly believe that a family should not be torn apart simply over housing,” she said.

Read more at the Concord Monitor

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Spotify Rolls Out Music Playlists for Pets

Pets seem to favor classical music and soft rock.

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Digital music service Spotify had a hunch that people were playing tunes for their pets.

A study by the company found that 71% of pet owners did exactly that. The survey included 5,000 music-streaming pet owners from the U.S., the UK, Australia, Spain and Italy.

The company explains:

That being said, we created a unique experience to help you craft the pawfect algorithmically generated playlist for you and your pet to enjoy together. Head to spotify.com/pets for a playlist you can share with your dog, cat, iguana, hamster, or bird.

See the graphic below for more details from the survey.

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These States Have the Most Dog and Cat Owners … And These States Have the Least

The US is home to almost as many domestic pets as humans.

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A new report looks at which U.S. states are the most pet-loving.

Seniorliving.org, a website devoted to providing information to seniors, delved into recent data from the American Veterinary Medical Association to create its rankings.

Idaho had the highest rate of households owning at least one dog, at 58.3%, according to the report, which excluded Alaska and Hawaii, which were not measured in the AVMA study. Dogs are least common in Washington, DC, where 22.5% of households have at least one.

Vermont ranked first for percentage of households with at least one cat, at 44.6%. DC, meanwhile, is the least cat-owning place, with just 16.4% of households being home to a cat.

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The U.S. is home to almost as many domestic pets as human beings. Almost 1 in 3 of those pets are fish, Seniorliving.org explains.

Cats and dogs combine for about 54.8% of all domestic pets.

 

 

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