Dogs Remember More Than We Think With Episodic Memory!
1 December, 2016

We all know that we can train dogs to sit down, roll over or even when their daily walk occurs on command.  It is a reactionary and impulse memory.  Yet, as it turns out, dog not only remember commands, but might also have an episodic-like memory according to a recent study conducted by a group of researchers in Budapest, Hungary.

Researchers at Budapest University conducted a study looking into dogs’ memory

Researchers at Budapest’s Eotvos Lorand University created a study looking at dogs’ memory. It is common knowledge that dogs can be trained to remember commands, names, objects, people and places. But this Family Dog Project leader Claudia Fugazza and her colleagues are testing the boundaries of dog’s “episodic-like memory.”

The study used a straight forward methodology of training

Using a fairly self-explanatory form of training called “Do-as-I-do training,” trainers worked with dogs to copy actions they performed after the command “do it,” like touching an umbrella. Then they trained dogs to lie down on a mat as a response to a new action by the trainer. The last step involved a new action and then taking the dog behind a screen and waiting a moment, after which they gave the “do it” command again.

Dogs learned to use their memory to recreate simple tasks

For the episodic memory study, the researchers trained 17 dogs to copy human actions through the “Do as I Do” method. Next step, the dogs were taught to lie down purposefully after the watching an action performed by a person. After the dogs learned to do this, they were suddenly given a “Do It” command without any prior warning.  Surprisingly the dogs were able to imitate the action even though they weren’t alerted beforehand to remember and repeat it.

The dogs were able to recall an action exhibiting an episodic-like memory

The dogs were able to recall the action performed by the person and repeat it when they were asked to do so. It is therefore clear that the dogs exhibit episodic-like memory.   The researchers tested the dogs after one minute first, then after an hour. They discovered that the dogs were able to do the actions after both short and long stretches of time. However, their memories declined more with time.

Though dogs can be trained to repeat the action efficiently, this skill cannot be considered as an outcome of episodic memory. To be considered that the dogs do have episodic memory, they should be able to repeat a task without being asked or rewarded.

Once again, this study proves that dogs’ memories are closer to humans than we might think!

The study is published in the journal Current Biology on Nov. 23.

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