I remember everything …

except the things I forget!

Taken in the round I don’t think I’m ageing too badly. But there is one aspect of my world that does drive me bonkers from time to time. That is a decline (and that’s putting it politely) in my short-term memory. Everything from forgetting what it was I wanted to say to Jeannie to still being unsure of finding regularly visited places in Grants Pass, our local city. To put that last point into context we moved here to Merlin, some 12 miles from Grants Pass, back in September, 2012.

Turning to the cognitive skills of our wonderful dogs it is clear to me that we can only go so far in understanding how our dogs think and how much of their world is dealing with the present supported by their memories of previous events. (Frankly, in writing the last sentence I realised how even that premise was more of a guess than a known fact.)

A recent study at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest about the memories of dogs has been widely referred to across many news outlets. So when it appeared on the Care2 site it was a natural to republish it for all you good people.

ooOOoo

New Study Finds Dogs Remember a Whole Lot

3195202-largeBy: Laura Goldman December 2, 2016

About Laura

My doorbell has been broken for a few years, but every time my 9-year-old dog, Leroy, hears one chiming on a TV show, he looks at the front door.

Many pet owners have similar tales to tell about their dogs being able to remember long-ago experiences and events. And now we have proof that this really is possible. A new study found that dogs may have a more complex form of memory than most other nonhuman animals (sorry, elephants).

“Every move you make, every step you take, I’ll be watching you,” Sting once sang, and these lyrics could apply to our dogs, too. They’re not only watching us, but they’re remembering what they’re observing, no matter how trivial it may seem to us.

In the study at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, published Nov. 23 in Current Biology, 17 dogs were taught a training method called “Do As I Do.” The dogs would watch their owners perform an action. When the dogs were told, “Do it” and imitated their owners’ action, they were rewarded with a treat.

Next, the owners performed various actions but told the dogs to lie down instead of “Do it.” After a while, the dogs began lying down without being told to do so. The study’s authors noted that this showed the dogs had lost the expectation that they would be given the “Do it” command to imitate their owners.

Finally, the owners performed various actions, and when their dogs would lie down, the owners would wait either a minute or an hour and then give them the “Do it” command.

Some of the actions were unfamiliar to the dogs, such as their owners tapping on an open umbrella. The dogs would be led behind a partition, and a minute to an hour later would be led back to the umbrella and given the “Do it” command.

The dogs were able to remember what their owners had done, and tapped the umbrella with their paws.

“We cannot directly investigate what is in the dog’s mind,” psychologist Claudia Fugazza, an author of the study and owner of a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog who participated, told the Washington Post. “So we have to find behavioral evidence of what they expect or not.”

Remembering events in our lives is known as episodic memory. Until recently, only humans were thought to have this ability, but studies have found evidence that rats, monkeys and birds also have it, and so do dogs.

However, the researchers said the dogs don’t have full-fledged episodic memory, which would give them self awareness. Fugazza told NPR she didn’t think there was a method available to test whether dogs are self aware.

Victoria Templer, a behavioral neuroscientist at Providence College who wasn’t involved in the study, told NPR the results could be useful in helping scientists understand how episodic memory developed in humans and how it’s helped us to survive.

One interesting possibility Templer suggested is that “we evolved the ability to relive the past in order to imagine the future.”

ooOOoo

Of course what would be a marvelous aspect of a dog’s memory is being able to take note and remember where his male human companion left items around the house!

5 thoughts on “I remember everything …

  1. Your last comment was priceless, Paul. Dogs do remember certain things from the past. My husband has a habit of stretching his neck when he wakes up in the morning. After years of observing this action, now Mags does the same thing when she wakes up from a nap. Very interesting article!

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