Your dog may recall commands, remember people after long stretches of time, or behave in ways that make long-term memory seem obvious. A scientific study out of Hungary says dogs indeed have declarative memory, the type of long-term memory responsible for remembering facts and information.
Types of Memory
There are two types of memory: short-term and long-term. Short-term memory works briefly in order to accomplish an immediate task, and long-term memory is more permanent storage of information. Two types of long-term memories exist: procedural and declarative. Procedural memory involves skilled movements. Declarative memories involve remembering facts and the time-sequence of events.
According to a study by Claudia Fugazza and Adám Miklósi of Hungary's Eötvös Loránd University, dogs can learn, retain and later repeat actions humans teach them. The study, published in "Animal Cognition," trained dogs to watch activities performed by their human demonstrators. They were trained to wait briefly before showing the action previously demonstrated to them. Then, they were tested for memory of that action. They remembered the action after 10 minutes, even with distractions in between.
Even After Delay
In the Hungary study, one of the dogs' owners had her dog sit and watch her. She placed three random objects at the scene. One was a bell, which the owner rang. They then took a break away from the scene and pursued different activities. After the break, the owner brought the dog back to the scene and gave the command "do it." At this point, the dog, remembering what the owner did before, rang the bell himself.
The study's authors conclude that their research shows dogs can take in a mental picture of actions and reproduce those actions after a delay and with distractions in between. Dogs are able to witness new actions with no prior learning or experience and then recreate those actions later, even with a delay. This suggests that dogs do have long-term memory. Specifically, the study reflects the presence of long-term declarative memory, which requires remembering facts or information previously learned.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.