Dogs Remember More Than They Let Us Believe

Because we don’t speak dog, measuring what your pooch can remember hasn’t always been an easy thing to prove. But now, researchers have proof that dogs have memory-ability similar to humans.


A new study out from the MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Budapest shows that dogs have the ability to remember things you may not think they are, and to process these memories in an episodic way as humans do. This ability to remember past events when incorporating actions, similarly to the way humans do is called episodic memory, as compared to semantic memory, which is more the recognition of things learned and/or known.


This episodic memory in dogs means they are able to remember things that happened in the past that weren’t necessarily meaningful at the time, but which allows them to attach emotions to those prior memories and times in their lives.


Related: When It Comes To New Tricks, Younger Dogs Learn Faster


Researchers claim this type of memory is closely related to self-awareness, which is the ability to recognize oneself as an individual entity, and typically is only associated with humans. Previously, dogs were thought to be limited to semantic memory and the facts and rules they learn in order to survive.


The study observed 17 dogs who were trained to mimic an action a human performed in a “Do as I Do,” way. Researchers showed dogs an action, then told the dogs to, “Do it!” and the dogs did. Later, the experiment required the dogs to remember it at an unexpected time, and not in the way they’d been shown to repeat earlier. The dogs were able to rely on the information and memory they’d made when they’d simply been told to, “Do it,” and showed that they were relying on information previously known and remembered, which is evidence of episodic memory.


The ability to recall things this way shows that dogs are able to remember things that happened in the past as regularly integrated memory, instead of simply learning to be able to perform the action at a later time, in an isolated manner. The ability to perform an activity because of a previously remembered event is evidence of episodic-like memory, and collaborates other episodic memory tests that have suggested primates, rats and pigeons may also create episodic memories, though the other studies only involved simple stimuli and not real-life situations as this study did.


Related: Heads Up Dog Trainers–Why You Should Treat Humans Like Dogs


So just when you think your dog is laying there, completely oblivious to what you are doing, turns out he may be forming a memory base for something you’ll ask of him later, even though neither of you know it at the time.


Puts a whole new spin on how much your dog is scamming you when he pretends like he doesn’t know what he did with your slippers, doesn’t it?

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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