We've all seen the heart-warming movies about animals finding their way home. Sometimes, dogs are completely independent. They will go out to play, and then they will head right back home when they are done. So how good is a dog's memory? Can dogs remember places?
Signs That a Dog is Remembering a Place
Dogs have a different way of forming memories than humans do. Dogs associate certain times of day, places, and behavior with upcoming activities such as going for a walk or getting food.
Dogs are skilled at predicting situations. The more they predict upcoming events, the better they can prepare and respond. This is part of how the bond between dog and human has grown so strong.
When you put on your slippers to outside, you may notice your dog running in circles, wagging their tail, or panting in excitement. This is because your dog has an association with you putting on your shoes and the opportunity to go outside.
Dogs have an outstanding sense of smell. When the park is within the range of their specialized noses, they may start panting, barking, or even whining in excitement.
If your dog misbehaves, your tone of voice will probably change. That's how your dog knows they are in trouble. Your dog associates your tone of voice with anger, which makes them respond in various ways. Some dogs cower, some dogs give puppy dog eyes and look guilty, while others may ignore their owner's disdain.
Depending on their breed and personality type, all dogs have their own ways of responding to things they remember.
- Jumping up
- Wag tail
- Low tail carriage
- Tail tucking
- Staring at You
- Paying Attention
- Abnormal Behavior
History of Dogs' Memories
The partnership formed over 15,000 years ago when wolves and humans figured out that they can help each other prosper. Wolves helped humans hunt while humans provided shelter and their leftover food.
At first, wolves were just part of the pack. Over time, they started especially bonding with certain humans. This moment was the birthplace of pets. Wolves were the first animal to ever be domesticated.
Part of the way wolves were able to create bonds with humans was by predicting and responding to certain situations. Dogs associate certain times of day with certain activities.
The more they were able to correctly predict specific events, the more they bonded with their humans. This meant that they would continue to be bred and those personality traits were passed on from generation to generation.
Dogs have episodic memory, just as humans do. However, dogs cannot recall those events for years after. Dogs have a short-term memory - they can remember the walk you went on a few hours ago. They do not have much of a long-term memory, which means they can't reflect on past events such as the puppy birthday party you had a few months ago.
The Science of a Dogs Memory
Because dogs do not think in the same way that humans do, their memories are quite different as well. When dogs make associations with specific events or ideas, they are forming their own kind of memory.
If dogs are fed at the same time each day, they begin to associate that time of day with eating time. Each time dogs are fed, certain neurological processes take place in their brains. When they are fed at the same time each day, their brains get in the habit of producing these brain chemicals at the same time every day.
Over time, their brains produce these chemicals around the time they get fed, even if they have not been fed yet. This is one way dogs make associations in order to form memories. They associate times of day with an upcoming event.
Training a Dog to Remember
There are many benefits to training dogs. When dogs are given regular training sessions, they are able to expand the horizons of their thinking. Training also provides a great opportunity for creating happy memories for both you and your dog.Dogs can perform certain tasks from memory based on commands that their owners give them. In one study, owners performed a task as their dogs watched. Up to an hour later, when their owner said, "do it," the dog would imitate the behavior of their owner.
This works in the same way as commands and cues. When you show your dog a behavior and put a specific word to it, such as "sit," your dog will create a link between that word and the behavior you want them to perform. This is especially helpful when your dog hears a cue, performs an action, and then gets a treat or praise.
When dogs are shown positive responses for positive behaviors, the feel-good chemicals are released in their brains. This reinforces their association with your command.
A great way to train a dog to remember when specific things will happen is by doing those things at the same time every day. For example, your dog can sense when you are about to come home based on the usual time that you come home every day.
You can also train your dog to remember by showing objects associated with events. The best way to do this is by showing the object before each time the event occurs. A simple illustration of this is when your dog sees you pick up their leash. When you take your dog on a walk with a leash, it won't be long before they know what that leash means.
In the same ways, your dog will start to remember places. They will associate smells and the car ride with happiness and fetch.
Repetition and consistency are the two biggest tools you'll need when training your dog. Be careful not to give your dog treats only for good behavior. Instead, alternate between treats and positive praise in a happy tone of voice.
By giving treats every time a command is followed, your dog is less likely to respond to commands when they are not hungry.
How to React When Your Dog Remembers Something:
Give positive praise.
Display open and happy body language.