Medicine

Your Dog Might Remember A Whole Lot More Than You Think

Your Dog Might Remember A Whole Lot More Than You Think

But it's been tough to confirmt hat, because you can't exactly ask dogs what they remember. The latest science shows they most certainly do.

However, recent studies show that dogs are capable of using an ability similar to the episodic human memory.

The discovery, reported in Current Biology, adds dogs to the short list of other animals - including rats, pigeons and primates - that are known to have what's called "episodic memory". Or if the owner walked around a bucket, the dog would walk around a bucket as soon as he or she heard "do it".

Anyone who's trained a dog knows they have good memories, especially if treats are involved.

And it's possible that dogs aren't the only animals with this talent. We unfortunately can't ask dogs what's going on in their fuzzy little heads.

Others say evidence is mounting that dogs have episodic memories, and it makes sense because they are social animals.

ResearchGate: What led you to conduct this study?

"I think that dog owners more or less suspect, at least, that dogs can remember events from the past - what is novel is the type of memory they can use for doing so", said Claudia Fugazza lead author of the study from the MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group.

After some time had passed, a trainer would then shout: "Do it" and the dogs, after a slight pause, would repeat the action.

"Do as I do!". This, according to the researchers, is a prove that the dogs had lost any expectation of receiving the "Do it" command any time soon.

The study, "is a creative approach to trying to capture what's on a dog's mind", says Alexandra Horowitz, a dog cognition scientist at Barnard College in New York City who was not involved in the research.

Claudia Fugazza, author of the study and animal behavior researcher at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, told NPR that she made a decision to test dogs memories of events via a training technique she invented called "Do As I Do". Incidental encoding refers to the process of storing important information in the brain without knowing that it has to be remembered or that it will be important later.

So, they did another round of training in which dogs were trained to lie down after watching the human action, no matter what it was. Previously, the dog was taught to lie on the mat when it received the command "do it!". Finally, the owner issues the command to imitate: "Do it". The conclusion, they add, is backed up the dogs' ability to mimic actions despite having never physically done them before. In other words, the dogs recalled what they'd seen the person do even though they had no particular reason to think they'd need to remember. "What is new and important is that dogs can remember events even if those events do not seem to be important", she said.

Scientists can't say with certainty that the dogs were demonstrating episodic memory, and besides, definitions of "episodic-like" memory are not entirely agreed-upon.

"Our study is the first to test whether pet dogs in their own natural environment can remember complex and content-rich events that are close to real life situations", said Fugazza. Dogs trained to "Do as I Do" can watch a person perform an action and then do the action themselves.

Dogs have a remarkable ability to recall events from the past, in a similar way to humans.