Dogs have episodic memories, like people

Have you ever wondered if your canine patients remember past visits? A new study suggests that might just be the case.

Researchers from MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group and Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary concluded that dogs have the same kind of “episodic memory” that humans do, and are able to recall past events.

The study was published in Current Biology on Nov. 23.

The researchers took advantage of a trick called "Do as I Do." (Dogs trained to "Do as I Do" can watch a person perform an action and then do the action themselves, such as jumping in the air.) The dogs were able to mimic the researchers' actions.

To further prove the presence of episodic memory, the researchers trained 17 dogs to imitate human actions with the "Do as I Do" training method. Next, they did another round of training in which dogs were trained to lie down after watching the human action, no matter what it was.

After the dogs had learned to lie down reliably, the researchers surprised them by saying "Do It" and the dogs did. In other words, the dogs recalled what they'd seen the person do even though they had no particular reason to think they'd need to remember. They showed episodic-like memory.

Dogs were tested in that way after one minute and after one hour. The results show they were able to recall the demonstrated actions after both short and long time intervals although the memory faded somewhat over time.

Photo credit: © iStock/franciskocz

NEWStat Advancements & research News