Memory in dogs does not work exactly the same as the pattern of recall, recall, and retention in humans. Their short-term and long-term memory is not as complex as ours, however, they are able to memorize effectively through their associative and olfactory memory. Therefore they can remember people, objects, situations, places, other animals, and reactions and we can enhance this associative memory through learning and repetition of actions.
Dogs’ associative memory is forged through repetition
Dogs have a type of associative memory based on the fact that their learning is always based on habits and repetition. As a consequence of their close bond with the family, dogs (especially in urban areas) have become capable of recognizing even the smallest of our gestures in certain situations. By the tone of our voice they detect our moods and adapt their behavior to these situations, that is, they ‘gather and store’ this daily and repetitive information to respond to it, in such a way that they recognize when it is time to eat, if we grab their towel they know it’s bath time, as soon as we touch their leash they are happy because they know they are going for a walk and so on with the situations, they perceive every day and that for us constitute the basis of their education.
In the wild, animals are forced to ‘memorize’ places and situations for their own survival, for our dogs this ‘spatial and sensory memory’ is useful for them to relate to their family and the environment.
Dogs’ long-term memory is provided by their senses
People can remember events and specific facts that occurred a long time ago, evoke the emotions that they produced in us and make reasoned decisions based on it; Most experts believe that the mind of dogs does not work exactly like this since, although they lack this complex ‘intellectual process’, they do have a somewhat more basic but very effective associative memory: for example, they do not know the meaning of a fair or verbena, but as soon as they hear the sounds of rockets and firecrackers they know that it is an unpleasant experience for most of them.
In the same way, they ‘recognize’ people who have been affectionate with them and those who have not, by smells and tones of voice, and this allows them to react accordingly. This effective sensory memory enables them to associate environments that evoke pleasant and reliable sensations for them or places that they reject due to phobia or some traumatic experience.
According to the experience of many owners, dogs do have a long-term memory based on the experiences they share; For example, if the dog experiences something new in a certain place on a habitual route, when it passes through the same place again, even if several days or even months have passed, they remember it and become interested again and look in the same place to revive what they experienced: looking to the top of a tree where they made a cat climb, looking again in the same thicket where they saw a rabbit, approaching the gate of the house where they ‘know’ that another friendly dog lives (although it is not there). ), for example. And they always remember unpleasant experiences for them.
The immediate memory of dogs
It has always been recommended that if we get home and see that our dog has destroyed the carpet or our shoes, it is useless to blame him hours later and it is totally true; The short-term memory of dogs is poor, after a few seconds after committing the ‘mischief’, he will no longer remember it. This also applies to the education of puppies to relieve themselves in a specific place at home: if they are not caught red-handed, the puppy will not understand the reason for our anger.
The episodic memory of dogs do have memories?
They do not elaborate them exactly as we would (by a succession of images associated with something), but in a way they do, in most cases caused by their ‘olfactory memory’, for example, a dog is able to recognize its owner or any loved one after a long time without seeing her, basically ‘remembers’ her smell and the timbre of her voice.