Do dogs have memories, even? How does a dog’s memory affect their lives in the short and long term?
You’ve probably noticed that your dog remembers you even after a long hospital stay or vacation. This may make you wonder about your dog’s memory.
This article will delve into dogs’ minds to understand how long dogs remember and what this means for our interactions with them. So keep reading to learn how your dog’s memory works!
If you live with a dog, you may believe they have good memories. After all, an obedience-trained dog remembers commands and hand signals.
However, the truth is slightly different.
Although it has been demonstrated that dogs have memories, researchers do not yet know the specifics, such as the extent to which dogs remember things.
So let’s start with the essential clarification – а dog’s memory span may be broken up into short and long-term memory.
Short-term Memory of Dogs
According to studies, dogs have a short-term memory span of around 27 seconds like humans and many other species.
So, please, do not rub the dog’s nose in its urine if it has urinated on the floor. Since the dog’s memory has no recall of actually urinating in the house, rubbing the dog’s nose will only create fear in the dog.
Suppose the negative reinforcement is not associated with a specific action immediately. In that case, the negativity will be related to whatever activity or object is closest to that reinforcement and then be imprinted in the dog’s brain.
This is also why we cannot and should not punish our dogs if they do something we don’t like.
Of course, this is true if there is a significant amount of time between our reaction and the occurrence – i.e., more than a few minutes.
Now back to the topic; how are things regarding long-term memory in dogs?
Long-term Memory of Dogs
The common belief is that dogs are unable to travel mentally back and forth in time as we do and are not thought to possess episodic memory – a capacity for long-term memory retention of events.
In other words, a dog’s memory is not the same as ours. As a result, we have a variety of methods for storing and recalling memories.
Episodic memory is our ability to ‘go back in time’ and recall information about events. A person’s episodic memory can be highly detailed, recalling everything from their 15th birthday to what they had for breakfast.
However, according to a recent study, dogs may have episodic memory, too; in other words, the ability to recall specific events from the past.
However, like humans, dogs benefit from associative memory, which allows them to remember things for longer periods. For example, they remember places, people, and things using associative memory.
Whether through smell, sight, or sound, your dog will use its senses to associate things with the people, places, actions, and things with which it interacts.
So, dogs remember people, places, and experiences based on their associations with them. Additionally, dogs also use long-term memories to help them remember tricks like rolling over on command.
On top of that, dogs’ memories can contain positive and negative associations.
For example, if you put on your sneakers before taking your dog for a walk, your dog will be excited every time you wear them. Your dog then associates those sneakers with going on a walk.
At the same time, negative associations can be stressful for your dog and cause anxiety.
As a result, your dog will use negative associations to protect themselves, whether from a trip to the vet or a run-in with a mean neighbor.
Will My Dog Remember Me after a Month or a Year?
We have to leave our furry friends from time to time. But unfortunately, there are just some places our pups can’t go, whether to work, school, or on vacation.
But as we leave, many of us will wonder if our dog will recognize us when we return home.
The answer is yes! According to scientific evidence, dogs can indefinitely store visual, olfactory, and auditory experiences in their brains.
Dogs may not remember specific events, but they will associate any gesture, movement, voice, or smell with you.
So, it’s safe to say that your dog will remember you even if you’re gone for two weeks, a month, or many years.
Consider the countless YouTube videos of soldiers returning home to their dogs after months, if not years, of deployment.
So, even if your face has changed or it’s been years since you’ve last seen your dog, your furry friend will remember how you smelled, associate it with positive reinforcement – how much you loved them, and be overjoyed to see you’ve returned!
Dogs always live in the present. They do not think about the past because they cannot even remember it most of the time.
But even if dogs do not have fond memories of the past, their recognition of the present serves as a good reminder to live in the moment and enjoy every experience you share.
Dogs may have short-term, episodic memory, but their associative memories stick with them longer.
So, while we do not fully comprehend how dogs’ brains function in terms of memory, they have an authentic way of leaving wonderful, lasting memories in their humans’ hearts.