Do Dogs Have Memories Like You?

It is quite a fascinating concept to think about how animals recall specific incidents. You might have noticed how your pet responds to strangers or other known family members and meets them after a long time. Dogs being one of the closest human companions too, seem to recall specific moments. Is it real, or is it just an imagination of us human beings. They also seem to know the exact time of regular activities.

Is the memorizing capability of dogs similar to humans? Pet dogs possibly memorize specific incidents, but it is not similar to that of humans. Their mental capacity is not exactly like humans. They recall specific events by associating it with particular objects, space, experience, smell, or sound. Some excellent or bitter past experiences also come back while facing similar situations. Memory loss is a condition in older ones. Their memory relies on space or sometimes on sound or smell. 

To understand the mechanism of mental capacity of recalling things in dogs, one will have to follow some theories. However, a lot of research is still ongoing to provide specific answers. But a few below-mentioned points will help to relate to your dog’s responding nature that depends on their memory.

Everyday observations in pet dogs

As a pet parent, it is common to notice that your pet is aware of the exact time you serve dinner or snacks. He knows exactly what time you are returning from the office. On visiting a veterinary clinic, suddenly you will realize that there is a change of behavior. He gets anxious or scared of being at the same place to feel the same experience. He might be well responsive to your neighbor but not to your cousin visiting your home. Some of these similar incidents make pet parents think that their pets can memorize past activities. There are specific theories behind it, which will help to understand their thinking ability better.

Association with specific objects or incidents

Dogs do not precisely remember the entire incident that has occurred some time ago, such as a recent and a first-time visit to a park. But he will associate it with his dog harness that you will make him wear. He will relate the dog harness or leash with an outdoor walk. Thus, they have associative memories. They remember places or people by linking them to other objects.  


Dogs gather knowledge of these incidents over a specified period. The Association of memory is also an essential category of exercise. It is thus advised by trainers or expert professionals to impart training in pet dogs as early as possible. They will soon start relating objects with future activities, like a combination of a ball with playtime or your running shoes and running beside you while you ride a bicycle.

The recollection of past incidents

Although canines do not possess the same type of memorizing capacity, they can form negative impressions. These impressions are similar to the bitter experiences that humans encounter. Like the pain incurred due to vaccinating is a lousy experience for dogs. Next time when they revisit a doctor’s clinic, they may show different behavior. They may be reluctant to go inside the chamber as they could relate the environment with the smell. Dogs are quite sensitive towards certain scents and can connect them with past experiences.

Overcoming bitter associations: 

Since dogs can relate existing relations with future experiences, it is essential to overcome it. It is necessary, especially for painful and bitter experiences. 

  • Many pet dogs often seem to continue getting scared or anxious when they encounter specific incidents, such as visiting the vet clinic. To transform it into a positive one, one can frequently visit the clinic without any particular reasons. Just for a walk, or giving him a treat on behaving well can help in the same
  • Many pets having a friendly and safe environment tend to remain extraordinarily timid and scared or exhibit extreme aggression. It is usually because they relate the space with a past bitter experience like abuse or punishment in shelters or with previous owners. To mitigate the same, one must introduce them to training or provide him with dog toys and puzzles that will engage and distract.

Thus, positive and healthy associations will dominate over the negative ones and help your canine relieve and de-stress himself.

Dogs Memory

A brief outline of the process involved in a dog’s memory

Few research articles are available to analyze how dogs’ memories work and how they relate specific incidents with the time of the day. Dogs are not as intelligent as humans; they do not know how to identify the exact time of the day but are quite sensitive.

However, they know precisely about their dinner time or what time to get up. They also will wait by the door for you to reach home at around the same time. It is not only for a day but continues regularly. Below mentioned points will help you to analyze the same:

Time reference

As per researchers, animals cannot identify the incidents as per their occurrence or time reference. They can neither analyze memories of past events, nor can they anticipate the future ones. At the same time, humans can think about the past and follow specific precautionary measures to avoid any negative experiences. They can act accordingly. However, in the case of dogs, they can only live in the present. And based on past associations, they can relate the present situations. 


Just as human toddlers train to follow certain practices which continue, even after growing old, similarly, training dogs regularly from a young age makes them develop certain habits. Although they will not have the exact memory of the event, their reflex action will urge them to do so. For example, using the bathroom for urinating.

Episodic memory:

As a human child grows from a baby to a toddler, they can’t remember every minute details of the growing stage, especially till the age of four. But dogs have the power of episodic memory due to the ability without remembering the exact event of the first learning session. Commands like sit, heel, and fetch makes them remember events that occurred in the past, like sitting down on the command or grabbing a ball after launching. They experience episodic memory but with limitations and not as adult humans do.

Biological clock: 

Dogs use their internal body oscillators, which makes them respond to certain activities, even if not old. For instance, the change of hormonal balances in the body and the nervous system and reflex actions they know when they will get to eat. You may notice that your pet reaches the exact spot every day and waits for his meal. Continuation of these activities makes them respond to the same regularly.

Dogs, too, have short- term and long-term memories just like humans, but their constraints are more significant. Dogs cannot retain memories for long but associate them with space, smell, and sound.

Relationship with human parents based on memories

Since dogs have short term memory, they will not remember every detail of the bond that you share with him. But will associate with you with the positivity that both individuals share. 

  • They won’t remember you leaving for office in the morning and will not like the time of staying alone. But will be excited to see you back on return and will enjoy that moment until the next time. This event, when continued daily, gets used to the habit of waiting for you and excited about your arrival. 
  • They might not remember their previous parents but will recognize their smell or cuddling that he bestows on meeting him. Within seconds, he will identify and if this relationship were positive, he too would respond positively. Or else, will get aggressive or scared.

As a pet parent, now you know how and why your pets react with absolute strangers or other pets, also, their behavior towards you and their instant reaction to noticing particular objects. Thus, it is necessary to provide the training and give them positive memories so that they can associate with it and live a fearless and happy life.


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