A Preliminary Study toward a Rapid Assessment of Age-Related Behavioral Differences in Family Dogs
Department of Ethology, ELTE Eötvös Loránd University, 1117 Budapest, Hungary
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 21 June 2020 / Revised: 12 July 2020 / Accepted: 15 July 2020 / Published: 17 July 2020
Cognitive aging in dogs has attracted interest due to their utility as an animal model for human aging and their need for veterinary care. The latter in particular would benefit substantially from standardized tests for fast and comfortable administration, which would reduce time and financial costs for both owners and practitioners. Here, we examine a battery of tests (the mini mental test, MMT) selected and adapted toward this end in a sample of 20 young (1–5y) and 26 old (10–15y) dogs. Each behavioral test was evaluated for its ability to discriminate between dogs based on their age category. Older dogs displayed less social interest, performed worse in a place-memory test, and seemed both less interested in and less fearful of a novel, moving object, aligning with previous findings and thus confirming the MMT’s external validity. The older dogs were also less excitable, assessed by a dog personality questionnaire. Based on these results, for future studies comparing the behavior of young adult and old dogs, we suggest four feasible subtests (greeting, problem box, memory, novel object) that can be conducted outdoors, without complex devices, in a short time (< than 15 min), and evaluated on the spot. To determine which performance levels are within the normal range for old dogs, larger samples grouped by breed and age will need to be tested in future studies.