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Dogs & Memories

We all have those fond memories of our dogs, whether they're dogs from our past or a present. You remember the small moments, maybe when they did something funny or something plain adorable. Well, you're not the only one reminiscing. New studies show that your dog has the same type of memories!

What we did already know about dogs and memories is that they have simple memories like the appearance of your dad's car or the sound of their food bag. But it turns out that these simplistic memories are not the only ones your dog possesses. In fact, these new studies show that some memories dogs have are more human than dog.

This human-type memory that dogs seem to possess is called an "episodic memory." This is different from the type of memory that most animals have, "semantic memory." Semantic memory is when animals are consciously learning and retaining information, which can be seen in chimpanzees when they learn sign language or in your dog when "sit" for treats.

Episodic memory, however, is different. This type of memory shows self-awareness. How? Episodic memory requires your brain to recall specific events of the past. When you see a child playing the piano, for example, you might think back to your cousin teaching you to play the piano when you were a child. Episodic memories require you to "imagine yourself in the past." 

While humans display their episodic memory almost daily, this memory in dogs is harder to study. However, psychologist Claudia Fugazza managed to do it. 

The study started by asking dogs to perform an action their owner performed, called "Do As I Do." The purpose of this was to create an expectation for the dogs. After doing these exercises, like one involving touching an umbrella, the owners then changed track. When the owners touched the umbrella, they now simply commanded their dog to lie down. They repeated this action many times. After a while, the owners then touched the umbrella and suddenly made the command for their dog to imitate them. Would the dog remember this even though they had just learned something else?

Well, the dogs did remember! Most dogs were able to recall the action and correctly imitate it even though they hadn't done it in over an hour. This shows that dogs are able to recall certain memories.

So next time, when you're thinking about that time Fido ran onto that outdoor stage alongside the actors, look at him and say, "Do you remember that?" He just might!


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Jenna Gomes

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Jenna Gomes