What Do Dogs Remember? Since We Can’t Ask Them, Our Canine Experts Have Some Theories

It is possible that your dog is a genius memory keeper. In all likelihood, she remembers when dinner will be served and when it is time to take an exercise leash and can even recognize the relatives that visit each year. So what exactly can dogs remember and how do they remember?

“It’s confirmed that dogs possess memories, but we’re not certain about the extent at this point. Further studies are in the works and it’s exciting,” claims Hunter Finn, DVM, the owner of Pet Method in McKinney, Texas.

The research is uncovering a variety of aspects of the dog’s memory. This includes how canines can find their way back when they travel long distances and how dogs remember their former owner following being lost for a long time. Additionally, dogs remember dozens of phrases that we teach them. “Walk”, “ride”, “park” or even the names of your family members are the norm for your pet. This article will help you understand your dog’s memory.

How do Dogs’ Memories Form?

There are many types of memory, but according to Leslie Sinn, DVM, CPTD-KA, and DACVB, one that humans and dogs seem to share is associative, which is a form of declarative/relational memory.

“It’s generally believed that dogs have an associative memory. This means they create connections or links between two objects. According to the official description: The capacity to recall and understand the relation between two items that are not related. Leash, for instance, is the same as walking,” she says. Sinn is a board-certified animal behaviorist, the owner of Behavior Solutions in Ashburn, Va., and a participant on the Daily Paws board of advisors.

If you apply the technique of positive reinforcement for teaching your dog a command such as “sit” or “stay”, they will be rewarded and utilize associative memory to link their actions to your reaction.

Another kind of memory one of the most important memory abilities is episodic memory, which refers to the fact that people are aware enough to recall something that has occurred to them. Since it’s primarily human, Sinn says animal experts aren’t certain whether dogs possess episodic memory. But, some researchers think that canines, as well as chimpanzees mice, elephants, and squirrels, have the potential. The issue? We aren’t able to inquire from them for certain.

How long is a dog’s Memory?

Sinn claims Hungarian researcher Claudia Fugazza studied this theory and came to the conclusion that dogs are able to retain information in the course of time “although their performance starts to decrease” over longer time periods of testing. The study also suggests the possibility that dogs have any kind of episodic memory.

“We are aware that dogs who have lived in stressful or unpleasant circumstances might experience an anxiety and anxiety related to certain cues like an object that is in the environment, location, or smell,” Finn adds. Therefore, this could support the notion that dogs might be able to recall some part of their negative experience even if it’s only the experience of feeling abandoned or being left out for example.

Can Dogs Remember People?

Sign states that the current idea is that dogs be able to have a strong, positive relationship with people which is likely to be stimulated by smell and/or seeing another characteristic of the owner such as voice or facial features, and the list goes on. They can connect with that person, even if they’ve not been in contact for a long time.

“What we don’t know is the nature of memory that is not based on any language. Are smells or odors that are associated with memory more powerful than others? We’re not sure and it’s a research area,” she says.

She cites an intriguing study on cats, in which children recognize their mother through the smell of her body long after they’ve parted. It’s possible that this could play part in the way that dogs remember their siblings and parents.

Helping your dog improve their Memory

As they get older the dogs are more susceptible to developing a type of dementia called canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) which can present numerous symptoms that are similar to those of the human disease, such as:

  • Alternate activity
  • Changes in the sleep-wake cycle
  • Social interactions are changing.
  • Disorientation
  • Anxiety and fear increase
  • More soiling in the house

There are many senior dogs that do not have CCD. However, to ensure that your pet remains healthy and active, keep up the regular exercise program suitable for their breed, and keep their minds sharp. Sinn affirms that positive reinforcement training plays a major role in associative memory as well as learning.

“It’s the basis of everything we do! “Sit” is a synonym for treats, and ‘come’ means pet and hugs,” she adds. “In addition, we could make use of this ability to alter the associations we do not would like to have. For instance, instead of strangers being associated with frightening, you can alter the meaning by changing it so that strangers mean meat from the deli!”

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