Dogs Remember How You Treat Them

If you think you can get away with shouting at your dog, think again! Dogs have associative memories. They will remember how you treated them. Read on to find more about it.

Human Memory vs Dog Memory

Our memory can be broken into long-term and short-term memory. Humans are able to retain memories. We remember all types of occurrences and events of our lives, whether positive or negative, which turn out to be learning experiences for us.

According to research, although dogs do not have the same retention as humans, they do have imprints of events stored in their minds. For instance, if a pup comes across an unpleasant incident, it will flee from the location and never go back. Although it will not have a concrete memory in its later years, an imprint of fear will be stored in its mind.

Positive vs Negative Imprints

Humans have the tendency to get lost in their past and be anxious of the future. On the other hand, dogs live very much in the present, but that does not mean they forget nasty experiences they may have had in the past.

When you scold your dog or use negative reinforcement while training, imprints are formed in its mind, which may result in the dog becoming fearful of its owner. For example, locking your pet dog all alone for behaving badly will result in the onset of anxiety in the dog and may even cause depression. The dog, in turn, will be afraid to be alone for any amount of time as being left alone is associated with fear and anxiety. This will be etched into its memory as a negative imprint.

On the other hand, dogs are very affectionate with their owner and they want that love to be reciprocated. Just as punishments or bad behavior can form negative imprints in a dog’s mind, positive behavior and reinforcements leave a positive mark.

Just like punishments, rewards leave positive imprints on a dog’s mind. In general, this should be practiced by every dog owner to strengthen the bond with their pet. For instance, when you play fetch with your dog, your constant appreciation and use of positive words will make the dog run after the ball and grab it for you.

Similarly, when you assign any task to your dog while training or in general, the use of positive words or a pat makes it eager to please you. This leaves a positive imprint in the dog’s mind. Your pet is more likely to listen to you when you assign that task again due to the feelings of joy and happiness associated with it.

Dogs Have Associative Memory

As humans, we recall experiences. For instance, you would have memories of strolls that you may have taken in the past. You will probably even remember a particular path you took. While dogs do not think in such a manner, they do have associative memories.

Dogs will remember places, experiences and people based on different associations. For instance, a dog owner claims that their dog knows it is time for a walk whenever they put on its walking shoes. Associative memory in dogs can be constructively used in their training and may even be changed over time.

The same is true when it comes to remembering people. Dogs will associate meetings with a person by the experience it had. In case you invite someone over who treats your dog with attention and treats, your dog will associate that specific person with treats and all the attention it was getting.

Similarly, a guest who may be afraid of dogs and pushes it away when your pet reaches for affection will scare it off and may induce a fear of strangers in it.

The stronger an association, the more difficult it would be to alter the memory. Dogs also remember the things they like with the help of associated memory.

The way a dog is treated in its younger days has a huge effect on how it will behave in later years. Therefore, whenever you get a new pup, it is advised to always use positive reinforcements while training it. This will help you later when the dog grows older.

Dogs Can Have Episodic Memories

Although dogs do not entirely have episodic memories, research shows that they can remember certain events as they witnessed it. For instance, one bad day at the vet’s office is enough to induce fear into its mind.

The dog will not specifically remember the particular incident, but it may associate the vet’s office with fear. Although that experience can be changed into a fun and joyous one, in case of a stronger association, the memory will be hard to erase.

Episodic memories come in handy when you are training the dog. A dog will be able to remember a command without remembering the way in which the command was taught.

Research suggests that dogs can also predict the arrival of their owners due to their internal biological rhythms. For this purpose, dogs may use circadian oscillators which is the daily fluctuation of hormones, neural activity and body temperature. The dog will react to a biological state it has reached at a specific time of the day to remember events.

Your Dog Remembers You!

No matter how good or bad the memories a dog has with its owner, it still remains the most loyal pet to date. It may not remember the first meeting with its owner or recall the fond memories you two shared in the initial years, but it will still wag its tail excitedly when you come back from work or follow you in a huge crowd.

Although dogs do not have memories like a human, it will still remember the way you treat it. Hence, be careful how you treat your dog. It may hold it against you!