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Can dogs remember?

Updated on June 29, 2010

Dogs have always been considered as intelligent animals. Numerous studies conducted on canine behavior have disclosed that dogs have almost human-like qualities when it comes to solving complex problems. Naturally, the intelligence of dogs differs from one individual to another. Canine intelligence though is noted to be at par with the intelligence of a two-year old human. Because kids at this age can remember, it was concluded that dogs are gifted with memory as well. A dog’s memory may not be as complex as what we humans have but it was confirmed that canines posses rudimentary memories that allows them to adapt to training very well. Studies and experiments have shown that dogs have the ability to remember.

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The dogs intelligence and memory

Dogs may not have the ability to think the way we humans do. A dog lover though will certainly be miffed if the pet is referred to as “just a dog” as these four legged friends have cognitive abilities. A dog’s basic reasoning ability enables them to perform logical actions. Memory is a vital element of intelligence. Dogs may have a fair visual memory but their memories for scent and sounds are exceptional. A dog would require deep concentration to remember situations or events but it will instantly recognize the voice of a master that has not been heard for a long time. The dog’s extraordinary memory for scent is a valuable asset in search and rescue operations.

Working memories

A dog’s memory is associative in nature if it is triggered by an exterior stimulus. An owner donning jogging attire will excite the dog as it is a signal that it will be taken by the master to run. In this case the jogging clothes will be associated by the dog to a pleasant experience. A pet that is left at home all day will stand at attention at the opening of the door at it will be associated to having company or to having the doggie bowl filled. Associative memory also known as working memory is short lasting. In housebreaking, the dog has to be scolded seconds after it has made an accident inside the house for the reprimand to sink in and to be associated with the undesirable act. Reprimanding the dog minutes after it has pooped would not deliver the desired effect.

Reference memory

Reference memory or real memory is stored knowledge. This knowledge can be retrieved and used by the dog at a much later time. Reference memory is best exemplified by the dog’s learned ability to perform acts that are not in its nature. A dog trained to do its business outdoors would scratch the door or pester the owner when it is time to go. The stored knowledge makes the dog remember the angry face of the master when it has soiled the carpet.

Memory span

Dog’s memory span varies. Real memories have extremely short span. A dog that was shooed away from the dining table will not try to filch the steak mindful of the master angry voice. Dogs though will also remember sights, sounds and scents it was exposed to especially if they have made a profound effect on the dog. A puppy that nearly drowned would fear the sight of water even if it has matured.


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