Does your dog remember all the time you’ve spent together?
Nonhuman animals remembering what they’ve done or seen before is called episodic memory. Many humans are not sure whether nonhuman animals really have the ability to recall what they’ve done in the past or not.
However, scientists have discovered that some birds, monkeys do have the ability to remember what they’ve done as some of them depend on their memory for survival.
In particular, Western scrub jays depend on their ability to remember where they’ve hidden their food, when they did it, and who saw them hide it and being able to recall all of this information if very important for their survival. There is a very good chance that your dog has the same memory.
What about the animals that don’t require a strong memory for their survival? Dogs that live with their owners are often fed and taken care of by their owners and require a strong memory to recall exactly where their food is located as much as birds do.
Dogs and Their Memory
To test it out, scientist asked 17 dog owners to perform a sequence of motions in front of their dogs and then ask their dogs to “Do it!” In 33 out of 35 tests, the dogs were able to recall exactly what their owners were doing during the experiments and replicate the exact sequence of motions.
This suggests that dogs do have somewhat of an episodic memory to remember what they’ve done and seen. However, the longer the dogs had to wait before performing the sequence of actions themselves, the lower their ability to replicate the same movements, which is quite similar to the memory of a human.
Humans also forget more easily what happened the longer ago the event was. Furthermore, humans have more trouble remembering what happened if not asked to remember. When humans watch something and intend to remember it later on, they are more likely to recall it exactly. However, when humans watch something without intending to memorize it and then are asked to bring it all back, they have more trouble with the exact details.
The dogs who participated in the experiment were asked to copy their owner’s actions after watching them perform it. One would think that the dogs might struggle to recall the complex details, but only in 2 out of the 35 did the dogs fail to copy the movements exactly even they weren’t asked to take note of their owners movements beforehand. Dogs indeed can remember much more than we think they can.