MythBuster #8 Do Dogs Remember?
Last spring they planted a crop of peppers in the fields at the end of our street. At the time, I posted a picture of Jack looking over the field wishing and hoping they were growing bacon.
Well, the crop has grown and they harvested it 2 weeks ago. I posted some pictures of the workers and the big trucks carting off all the
bacon red peppers. I took Jack and Maggie down there again today to snap a few pictures since they are plowing over the field and obviously getting ready to plant something else. And I snapped this picture of Jack & Maggie.
That got me to thinking about dogs and memories. Do dogs remember? And if they do, what do they remember? I would answer of course they remember, they get excited when they see ME, they remember me. They look for their dinner everyday at the same time, they remember when dinnertime is. The get excited when I pull the ‘Jack bag’ out of the closet as they know that means a hike, they remember. So my answer would be of course dogs remember.
But the research says otherwise, that dogs lack the capacity for episodic memory. What does that mean – simple that dogs have no sense of time, so no past, or future. The old adage of dogs “live in the moment” is true. But dogs do have some type of memory capabilities.
Jack may remember the park we go to (where the peppers are) because we go there all the time, so he has an associative memory with that place. Dogs also have spatial memories and procedural memories. For example, our dog Tino was blind – but he had a spatial memory of where the furniture was located in our house and never ran into anything, unless I moved it. Another example is that a dog may know many tricks – or a sequence of tricks, that’s procedural memory – they learn and remember a procedure. “If I sit when she says sit, I get a treat”. What delivers a treat – THAT they can remember.
But dogs do not have a sense of “It’s been 3 days since I went to Bradley Park – I want to go there tomorrow when we go for our walk because we haven’t been there in days”. Nor do know they know what you are talking about when you scold them for getting in the trash 15 minutes after it happens. Their short term memory is only a few minutes long. This is also one of the reasons they are so happy to see you even though you were only gone for 5 minutes…they don’t have that concept of time.
So, contrary to my cute photos of Jack & Maggie wondering where the bacon is, he really doesn’t have any memory of the pepper field, or the fact that he hoped for bacon 6 months ago. But, what do you think – what does your dog remember? Or NOT remember?
Here’s a few more resources for some additional reading if you are interested: