Can Dogs Remember the Past?

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"A memory... is the diary that we all carry with us" said Oscar Wilde.

Spending time with our doggos creates some of our most loved and cherished memories. But are these memories just one sided? Or can our pups remember the good times with us as well? 

For a long time, experts in doggo behavior believed that the answer to that question is no - that our dogs can't really remember the past. However, some recent studies have contradicted this theory, showing that dogs can in fact recall past events, including past snuggles with us! 

Read on to learn more about pups and their memories!

Introduction of Can Dogs Remember the Past?

Signs Your Dog Remembers the Past

Research has shown that our pups are able to recall and remember things even better than we previously believed. Although doggo' brains are definitely different than human brains, there are some similarities in the way we remember things.

Animal behaviorists and researchers once believed that our beloved pups couldn't form episodic memories because there was no way to deliberately ask our pups if they remembered something or not. An episodic memory is one's specific recollection of a past event through the way it was experienced - recalling the who, what, where, when and why of the event. However, new studies now show that dogs do in fact have some form episodic memory. 

There are other signs your dog remembers the past too. Sadly, abused dogs remember who hurt them or where they were abused - giving rise to the possibility of being upset, scared, anxious, or aggressive around similar scenarios or people. 

On the other hand, if you observe your doggo's behavior when you get in the car or go to the park, your pup likely has had a specific experience that can be recalled. Your pup remembers the last time that you got in the car, you two visited the park. The park is where all the other doggo friends are, so your pooch might get excited. It's important to understand that our dogs understand and remember a lot more than we once believed. 

Body Language

Here are some signs and certain body language you might notice when your dog is remembering something:
  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Panting
  • Jumping up
  • Scratching
  • Wag tail
  • Pacing
  • Whimpering

Other Signs

These are some other cues you might notice if your dog is remembering something:
  • Other behavior to get your attention
  • Perking up
  • Paying attention to the stimulus

The History Behind Dogs Remembering

History of Can Dogs Remember the Past?
Dogs have memories that aid them in navigating the wilderness and other expansive environments - a memory that has evolved over thousands of years. Dogs that are better at acting on and predicting the needs of their humans are more likely to have stronger bonds with their humans. Researchers believe that this is because of the way dogs evolved. 

Over 15,000 years ago when humans roamed with wolves, the process of domestication began. In order to get close to humans (and in turn share their food), wolves learned to associate specific smells, facial expressions, tones of voice, and other verbal and non-verbal cues with events that would happen (events like feeding time).  

Over time, wolves began to look like the dogs we know and love today. Dogs were bred for a variety of purposes, - like hunting, fishing, or simply companionship - which explains why there are so many different personality types and breeds. However, all dogs have evolved with the ability remember the past.

The Science Behind Dogs Remembering

Science of Can Dogs Remember the Past?
We humans have something called an episodic memory. This helps us understand past events and relate them to a context or time, for instance, by associating events with people, places, smells, etc. This also allows us to remember people from our past pretty clearly. 

Dogs, on the other hand, although they do show signs of a form of an episodic memory, have more of an associative memory. 

Dogs also don't understand the passage of time the same way as humans do, which explains why they are so excited every time they see you. 

Dogs also rely on their sense of smell and sight to recognize their owner and important people, both of which can aid in recalling past experiences and memories. As dogs get older, just like humans, they may have a harder time recalling people and events from their days as puppers. Also just like in people, research has shown that specific actions, behaviors, and traits can all trigger memories and bring our pooches a blast from the past.

Training of Can Dogs Remember the Past?

How to React When Your Dog Remembers:

  • If you have a scared doggo that remembers abusive events, be patient and comforting.
  • Sharpen your dog's memory with "do as I do" training.
  • Show happy and positive body language.
  • Reward your pup with treats.
  • Give positive praise.