Dogs Have Episodic Memory, Study Finds

French bulldog with yellow ball

Researchers discovered that dogs have episodic memory by making them repeat a number of actions. 

A group of researchers recently published a paper claiming that dogs have episodic memory. It seems like the pets are more intelligent than they were initially given credit, the animals being the only ones, except for humans, able to evoke a memory with the aid of an external stimulus.

Scientists Trained a Sample of Dogs Especially for the Study

Remember the last time you rode a certain bus? By sitting on the chair, you automatically remember who you were with the last time you rode it, how crowded it was, and even if you were in a hurry or not. Such a thing is possible because humans have something called episodic memory.

However, humans are easily able to explain their memories through words, dogs, on the other hand, can’t tell us if a certain place evokes a series of memories, scientists being forced to come up with intricate ways to prove that the animals are also able to remember something due to an external stimulus.

According to the paper published in the latest issue of Current Biology, Hungarian researchers trained 17 dogs. The scientists first taught the dogs a trick, then convinced them that they would not have to perform it.

The Scientists Used the “Do as I Do” Method

The first step of the study involved the scientists teaching the 17 dogs the “do as I do” training method. During the process, the trainer performed an action, for example, the person picked up a toy and then instructed the dog to do the same. When the dog completed the task correctly, it would receive a special treat.

Once the researchers were sure that the dogs mastered the first stage, the scientists changed the rules of the experiment. This time, when the owner performed an action, the dogs were instructed to lay down.

After a few rounds of “lay down” instead of “do it,” the dogs started laying down without being told, a sign that they knew that that was their task.

During the next stage, the trainers would perform the action, let the dogs lie down, and after a minute, they instructed the dogs to “do it.” Sixty percent of pooches responded to the command after a one-minute interval.

However, scientists decided to push the limits of the pets. They again performed an action, but then waited for an hour to tell the dogs to “do it.”

Thirty-five percent of the participants were able to recreate the action. This lead the Hungarian scientists to believe that dogs have episodic memory.

Some members of the scientific community do not agree with the results of the study claiming that more research is needed on the subject.

Image source: Pixabay

About Andreas Petersen

Andreas was too little to remember when he and his parents first set foot in America. He considers himself a true American citizen, but uses every opportunity to promote his Danish origins. He is deeply found of politics, all nations’ politics and generally looks forward to the presidential elections. His BA degree in Political Sciences has helped him get familiar to the constitutional frames of US and non-US nations.