Can Rescue Dogs Remember Their Bitter Pasts?

Can Rescue Dogs Remember Their Bitter Pasts?

When you bring a new dog into your home from a shelter or as a rescue, you may wonder how much of their old life they remember. Do they recall their first owner? The circumstances under which they were abandoned? The first time they met you?

Some experts think dogs can’t even really remember what they did the day before. Their episodic memory, which is what recalls special events and past experiences, isn’t retained easily, while semantic memory, which is what a dog uses for training, is stronger – but that’s mainly conjecture.

Researchers in Hungary aimed to solve the mystery. They got 17 dogs to come and be trained to do a series of basic tasks, such as putting their paws onto things or looking into things, when a certain cue was said. These same dogs were also taught “lie down”, which they did after the previous task.

The test began. After dogs had learned the commands, they would be told to do their first task, then told to “lie down”. Then, once they were used to that, they would be told to do their task, but the “lie down” command was not said. This made many dogs seem puzzled, which indicates there is likely some degree of episodic memory in dogs!

However, after a one-hour break, the dogs seemed less likely to remember that there were other commands they were supposed to hear. As such, researchers preferred to refer to this as episodic-like memory – similar, but not quite accurately the same!

Feature Image Source: Pixabay

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