Do you ever wonder if your dog can remember things? Can they respond to specific events?
When you and your dog go to the park, you might notice that your dog gets very excited. When you come home from work, your dog always reacts with the same level of celebration. So, does this mean that your dog is remembering these events? How does a dog's memory work? Can dogs remember?
Signs that a Dog is Remembering
Does that mean that your dog is remembering what a leash means? Well, yes, that is what it means! Dogs can remember, even though they do not quite remember in the same way that humans do.
The way dogs make memories is by making associations with specific things and responding to them based on their previous experiences with those things. For example, when your dog smells a familiar smell, such as the smell of the park, they will get excited, start barking, and start panting heavily.
When dogs see you put on your slippers, they might know that it is time to go outside. As a result, they will get excited, sit at the door, or jump up to get your attention. When dogs hear a specific sound, such as the sound of a whistle, they know to follow the command you have taught them according to that sound.
Dogs use all of their senses to help them use their associative memory to predict specific events.
- Jumping up
- Wag tail
- Trying to get your attention
- Going in the direction of the stimulus
- Perking up and looking around
The History of Dogs' Memory
This is likely because of the way dogs evolved. Dogs evolved over the course of thousands of years. This process began over 15,000 years ago when humans domesticated wolves - the first animals to ever be domesticated.
The two species were living apart from each other and rarely interacting. However, over time, wolves noticed that the humans were tossing their leftover food to the side. The wolves got closer and closer to these communities. In order to do this, they needed to find a way to better connect with their humans.
They did this by strengthening their ability to predict the needs of their humans. They learned to associate specific smells, facial expressions, tones of voice, and other verbal and non-verbal cues with events that would happen.
Over time, wolves began to look like the dogs we know and love today. Dogs were bred for a variety of purposes, which explains why there are so many different personality types and breeds. However, all dogs have evolved to remember specific things.
The Science of Dogs' Memory
The primary question has been whether dogs have an episodic memory, the way humans do. Interestingly, some dogs can copy their owner's actions simply by the owner saying "do it" after performing the action they want their dog to perform.
It has been shown that dogs do have an associative memory. This means that dogs associate specific things with specific events. Dogs use this associative memory to help them prepare for whatever might happen next.
Training a Dog to Remember
For example, when dogs are exposed to many different people with many different mannerisms, they are better able to read emotions from a variety of people. When dogs are exposed to new place and environments, they are more likely to be comfortable in those environments.
While you are with your dog in a new environment or around new social situations, you can train your dog by rewarding positive behavior. For example, if you go to a restaurant and sit on the patio with your dog, you can give positive reinforcement when they do not beg for food or bark at strangers.
You can also help your dog's memory of new people by associating the mail carrier with something positive. This can help your dog if they have barking problems. Often, dogs bark partly out of fear or protection. Showing the dog that all is well is a great way to re-associate the stimulus with the event.
Because of all of the information dogs take in during each moment, they are able to use many clues to help them remember how to behave and what might happen next. When dogs respond to the behavior the way that you want them to, you can give treats and positive praise. It is even a great idea to treat your dog to a fun game of fetch.
When training is a positive experience, it is more likely to stick. Be sure to reward positive behaviors and ignore negative behaviors. Punishment only confuses dogs, but rewards help them form positive memories.
How to React When Your Dog Behaves Correctly:
Show happy and positive body language.
Play a game of fetch.
Give them treats.
Give them positive praise.