How Long Can a Dog Remember Someone?

Dogs have short and long-term memory. They even have associative memory due to the events they have experienced, even though they don't actually remember the event that took place.
How Long Can a Dog Remember Someone?

Last update: 08 September, 2018

You may have already experienced seeing a dog that you haven’t seen in years. The dog might greet you just as he did before. “I remembered you!” It makes you stop and wonder. Is it possible that he actually does remember me? So, how long can a dog remember a person?

A dog’s memory

Knowing about a dog’s memory can help you understand how long they remember the orders or training that are given to them, and if they will remember you after a long hospital stay or a vacation. So, how does a dog’s memory work?

Obviously, dogs do remember because they don’t easily forget their human friends and other pets. Therefore, dogs do have long and short term memory.

Short-term memory allows dogs to remember specific events that will be forgotten after 10 or 20 seconds. For example, if you come home after a long day at work and find your shoes chewed up, there is no point in scolding your dog. He won’t even remember what he did. If he would have remembered eating your shoes, then he would hide as soon as you enter the house. However, he doesn’t, so that’s why he is always happy to see you.

A dog forgetting that he was bad

This is a good example why dogs live in the present. They don’t think about the past, mostly because they can’t remember it. You might be worried that your dog hasn’t been getting enough exercise. However, your dog will be just as happy to go for a walk after a few weeks as if you went yesterday.

Associative memory

Dogs don’t have a long-term memory like humans do, which are capable of remembering specific events for a long period of time and use it in make decisions. However, dogs have an associative memory. This means their brains hold on to circumstances or images that they can later use to assimilate a similar situation in the future.

For example, if you have ever gotten really ill and an ambulance picked you up, your dog will remember that moment. However, if he hears an ambulance siren, he will associate this sound with negative feelings. He may not know why, but he will know that the siren gives him a negative feeling.

On the other hand, if someone was very friendly to your dog and gave him a lot of love and attention, he will remember this feeling when seeing and smelling this person again.

So, how long can a dog remember someone?

A dog can remember someone his entire life! The associations remain stored in their brains and are related to how that person made them feel. A dog might not remember a specific event, but he will associate any gesture, movement, voice, and smell with an emotion.

Even if you haven’t seen your dog for years, he will recognize you from afar and will greet you as if you just came home from work. There are countless examples of this. For example, one man found his dog after he had been missing for eight years and the animal immediately recognized his owner.

Dogs will always remember you.

In some cases, when families have had to give their animals up for adoption, the dogs can recognize their previous owners years later when they have come over to visit him. Plus, what about dogs that spend years at their owner’s gravesites? They have never forgotten their owner and are waiting for them even after they die.

Even if you already were sure that “a dog is a man’s best friend,” learning about dogs’ memory and how much they are able to remember about a person confirms it even more.

There is no doubt that there is no animal more loyal, faithful, and affectionate with humans than dogs. Don’t you think dogs deserve everyone’s our love and affection? We certainly do!


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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.