Training style and sleep quality affect a dog's performance and well-being


The study also points out the need to pay attention to the stress that can be generated by less positive techniques, such as gentle reprimands or a lack of social reinforcement. The researchers suggest that future studies could be expanded to include humans.


Photo: Freebeck.

In a groundbreaking study exploring the interactions between emotion, learning, and sleep, researchers have begun to unravel how these elements are intertwined in dog behavior, with potential implications for more effective and humane training practices. Conducted on 24 family dogs, this groundbreaking study not only sheds light on dogs' cognitive processes, but also suggests training practices that can improve learning and overall well-being.

The study, which involved ethicists and veterinarians, compared two training styles: control and permissiveness. The dogs participated in two sessions to learn commands using both methods. Each session was followed by an assessment of learning performance, a 2-hour sleep EEG measurement, and a reassessment of performance. The results showed that learning performance improved significantly after sleep only in the session in which the permission approach was applied, suggesting that a more rewarding experience than expected improves learning success after rest.

Furthermore, learning performance was observed to be superior during the first training session, suggesting that success in the second session could be influenced by proactive interference, i.e. previously learned information influencing the acquisition of new information. Interestingly, improvement in learning performance after sleep was not associated with changes in the overall structure or spectra of sleep, although the type of training influenced these sleep structures.

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This finding underscores the importance of training techniques and sleep quality in dog training, particularly highlighting the effectiveness of positive reinforcement. The study also points out the need to pay attention to the stress that can be generated by less positive techniques, such as gentle reprimands or lack of social reinforcement, which were sufficient to trigger proximity-seeking behavior toward the owner in the dogs studied.

Given the significant impact of these interactions on dogs, the researchers suggest that future studies could be expanded to include human participants, using similar research designs to further explore the similarities between humans and canines. This type of research not only benefits the scientific understanding of learning and emotional processes in dogs, but also has important implications for improving training practices and overall animal welfare.


Reicher, V., Kovacs, T., Seabra, B. et al. Potential interactive effect of positive expectancy violation and sleep on memory consolidation in dogs. Sci Rep 14, 9487 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-024-60166-8

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President of the College of Veterinarians of Madrid, Felipe Vilas.


Photo: Freebeck.



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