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Do Dogs Remember People? (How Long Is A Dog’s Memory?)

If you’ve ever seen those heart warming stories of people losing a dog only to get reunited years later, then you may wonder if the dog really remembers his previous owners.

And just how good is a dog’s memory?

We know from those types of news stories that yes, dogs absolutely remember people.

What you might not know is that a dog’s memory is different from a human’s, yet they can remember people.

Below I’ll give you a bit more info on how a dog’s memory works.

How Dog Memories Work And Differ From Ours

A cool thing about how dogs remember people is that their memory works on association.

What this means is that a dog associates something specific with a person in order to be able to remember them.

Dogs use things like smell, sight, sound, and other senses for that memory association to form in their brain.

In fact, dogs use their sense of smell most often to help them remember things.

That’s right, your dog uses your scent to help remember you!

The result of a dog’s associative memory is that a dog has a good memory that lasts for a long time – and remember, a full day for a human is the equivalent of 7 days for a dog.

ALSO READ: How Long Is A Day For Dogs? (+Month & Year)

However, us humans have what is called episodic memory, which means that we can recall past events.

Sadly for dogs, they do not have the ability to recall past events in the same way that humans do.

How Good Is A Dog’s Memory?

If you think that a dog has a really good memory, then you are correct … sort of.

That associative memory that a dog has is very, very good and they can use it to remember a person that they have not seen for several years.

However, generally speaking, a dog’s long term memory is not all that great – only their associative memory is good.

Remember, dogs cannot recall past events like humans.

Or can they?

A study in 2016 researched if dogs have any type of episodic memory, like humans.

The conclusion was that dogs recall past events as complex as human actions even if they do not expect the memory test, providing evidence for episodic-like memory.

However, it is a very short-term memory for the dogs, according to the study.

Dogs were tested with a short (1 min) and a long (1 hr) retention interval. They were able to recall the demonstrated actions after both intervals; however, their performance declined more with time compared to conditions in which imitation was expected.

So, the answer to how good is a dog’s memory? is – probably better than you expect.

So, What Can A Dog Remember?

As mentioned above, dogs do not recall specific memories of events and things like people do.

Instead, they will remember people and things based on associations they have made with their senses.

Dogs can also remember bad experiences and trauma.

Do Dogs Remember People?

Yes, dogs do remember people, often as a result of the unique way each person smells.

Dogs also bond with their owners, which enables the dog to easily remember their owner – even if they have been separated for many years, such as is often the case with military service or a lost dog.

Do Dogs Remember Other Dogs?

Yes, of course, dogs remember other dogs.

Surely you have seen a dog get excited to see a doggie friend that he has not seen in a while.

That excitement is the result of the dog remembering the other dog.

Do Dogs Remember Other Their Parents and Siblings?

Yes, dogs remember their doggie parents and siblings.

It’s just like above with them remembering other dogs.

The same applies to dogs who are separated from their litter mates and then reunite for a playdate later on.

Do Dogs Remember Their Puppies?

If your dog has had puppies and you’ve given those puppies to other families, then you may want to know if the mommy dog will remember the puppies later on in life.

Since we already know that dogs have some long-term memories, there is a good chance that a mommy dog will remember her puppies.

It depends on how long the mommy dog has been separated from her puppies.

And, like with people, some dogs have a better long term memory than other dogs.

Do Dogs Remember Their Past?

Since the memory of a dog is different from that of a human, you may want to know if a dog can remember his past or his childhood as a puppy.

The answer is yes!

Using their associative memory, a dog can remember his past.

Dogs can remember both the positive and the negative from their past.

Evidence of this is when there has been trauma and a dog has anxiety and other behavioral issues, which you can train out of them by forming new memory associations.

Do Dogs Remember Their Previous Owners?

Yes, dogs can remember their previous owners, assuming that there are either negative or positive emotions attached to those memories.

This is really no different that people remembering previous people in their lives who are no longer present.

Do Dogs Remember Their Old Names?

If you’ve adopted a rescue dog, then you may want to give him your own name instead of the one the shelter gave him.

But do dogs remember their old names?

No, not really.

Names don’t mean anything to dogs other than recognizing that when they hear it, they need to respond.

This means that it won’t take long for your dog to start responding to the new name that you’ve given him.

Final Word

As you can see, dogs have a pretty good memory for animals.

So, there is no need to worry about your dog forgetting about you.

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National Canine Research Association of America