Can Dogs Forget You?

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Man's need to be remembered has been a longstanding part of cultures and history. Think of statues, books, or hieroglyphics. It all points to humankind's obsession with being remembered. However, what if someone as close to you as a family member forgot you? How sad would that be? 

Have you ever thought about your pooch and if they would forget you if you were gone for a long period of time? It’s actually a fairly common question, since people form strong bonds with their dogs, and it would be very sad to think your best friend had forgotten you. So, can they forget you? Let’s take a look.

Introduction of Can Dogs Forget You?

Signs Your Dog has Forgotten You

So, first, what will your pooch do if they recognize you? You'll probably notice a lot of the behaviors you've seen from them when you get home from work or a trip to the store. They might run up to you with their tail wagging and they might even jump up on you. A tail wag is one of the most universal signs of excitement in dogs, so it's safe to say that the dog would at least be excited if their tail is wagging. 

You might also notice them licking you (if they're a licker) and even trying to play a game. Other signs might include them sniffing you or putting their ears up since they might be trying to figure out who you are, at first.

There are a few signs you might notice if your dog doesn't recognize you, which could be super sad, but could be the reality, too. You might notice them cowering or trying to hide if they are scared. They also might just be disinterested in you in general. 

Don't worry, though. Some dogs really don't show a ton of excitement no matter what - it's just their personality. Humans are the same way too. You might be reminded of a certain human family member you only see at Christmas that barely moves when you walk in. They might wave and say hi, but not even put down their phone. It's not because they don't know you, it's just because they aren't as excitable. Your pup could be the same way. 

Another explanation is that some dogs really need a good opportunity to sniff you before they recognize you. Dogs' sense of smell is crazy-awesome, and sometimes a few whiffs of your hand will jog their memory.

Body Language

Here are some signs you might notice if your pup recognizes you:
  • Jumping up
  • Wag tail
  • Sniffing
  • Licking
  • Ears up

Other Signs

Here are some signs you might notice if your pup doesn't recognize you:
  • Cowering or trying to hide if they are scared
  • General disinterest in you
  • Sniffing you

History of Dogs Forgetting People

History of Can Dogs Forget You?

As far as the history of wanting to be remembered, as mentioned, man has an obsession with it. This obsession has followed humans throughout history and only continues to grow as everyone seeks to "leave their mark." 

As far as the history of dogs remembering humans, Psychology  Today pointed out an interesting story. Man's best friend was mentioned in the famous work, "The Odyssey". When the hero Odysseus returns home after 10 years, he is donning a disguise. The article reminds us that the only one who remembers him is his dog, named Argus. Odysseus raised Argus from a puppy. So, it isn’t terribly surprising that he remembers him.

As for more modern stories, you can take a look at most social media services like YouTube or Facebook, and find many, many examples of dogs recognizing their owners after long absences. Heck, you stumble on these kinds of videos merely by accident! Humans absolutely love these videos. No one wants to be forgotten - especially by a treasured family member, after all.

Science Behind Dogs Remembering People

Science of Can Dogs Forget You?

Scientifically speaking, there sadly isn't much on this topic yet. Not much research has been done in this area. Psychology Today points out that this is probably because most people don't want to cultivate a loving bond and relationship with their pup, and then leave them for years at a time. You can’t blame them for this! 

There is some debate about whether a dog's memory is like a human's, though, and several sources say it's not. One source mentioned that dogs remember events as good or bad. So, they may not remember what color the flowers were on your walk, but they will remember they had fun on their walk. Therefore, they associate good feelings with taking walks

Another thing that points to a dog's ability to remember is that studies have shown they can recognize people's (and even other dog's) faces. So, that's promising. Also, the nose knows. Dogs' sense of smell is extremely powerful and is a sense they use quite often. So, knowing your scent might also tip them off as to who you are as well, even after a long absence.

Training Your Dog to Remeber You

Training of Can Dogs Forget You?

As far as training your dog to remember you, you can't. Either they do, or they don't. You can, however, build a strong bond with your pup. To do this, it's important for your dog to trust you. So, make sure to build a loving relationship with your dog. 

PetMD suggests a few other things, as well. They mentioned teaching your pup some tricks. Knowing all the basics is important to a happy home, but it could also be fun to teach your dog a few special tricks if you have the time and they are interested in learning. Another great way to bond is through experiences. Taking your dog for walks and playing with them often is a great way to do this! If you play a good game of fetch or tug-of-war, your pooch will love it! Even just being playful in everyday life will help with your bond.

Dogs love attention, so according to PetMD, it's important to praise your pupper as well. Make sure they know that you see they're doing a good job or that you're having a blast playing fetch with them. Give them lots of verbal praise, but also pet and rub them, in case they don't understand what you're saying!

So, can dogs forget you? Maybe. There isn't enough research to say. However, judging from all of the videos and stories of pet parents that have been reunited with their pups after long absences, we're leaning towards no. We think it's more likely they do remember you, even after long periods of being lost or gone.

How to React When Seeing Your Dog After Time has Passed:

  • Approach them slowly.
  • Let them get a good sniff of you first.
  • Accept all of the loving affection that they will pour on you once they realize who you are!