Do Dogs Have Short or Long-term Memory?

Do Dogs Have Short or Long-term Memory?

Last update: 22 December, 2018

If you’re wondering if dogs can remember things, the answer is yes. Do you want to understand how your pet’s memory works? First, you need to stop thinking of yourself as the center of the world. Dogs’ memories work differently than humans’ and this article will go over some of the details.

Differences between human and dog memory spans

Reading this article might be important to you. It could tell you why it’s pointless to punish your dog. This means when you’ve found out that your pet chewed up your new shoes or urinated on the dining table’s leg.


Dog playing a game that exercises his memory

However, a dog’s memory span can be both short and long-term. The short-term memory is what helps them with immediate actions. Long-Term memory involves storing information on a more permanent basis.

However, when it comes to long-term memory, dogs don’t remember specific events like people do. However, they appear to be able to retain information that they find useful.

This explains why they forget that they ruined your socks. However, at the same time, they able to remember where they buried a bone or where to eat.

Your dog’s memory has both short and long-term functions. But, they work differently than the way a human’s memory does.  Therefore, it’s important for you to know the differences if you want to understand your pet better.

How a dog’s memory works

It’s estimated that a dog’s ability to remember concrete things is between 10 to 20 seconds. Therefore, it’s pointless to punish them for something they did five hours ago, or even five minutes ago. They won’t be able to understand why you’re scolding them and why you are praising them.

So, if you don’t scold or praise them the minute they do something you want them to remember, it’ll be a waste of time if you do it later.

These noble animals don’t have any so-called “episodic memories.” They live in the present and don’t have the ability to recall things that have passed. This is different than it is for humans. You can travel in your memories until you get to a specific place and time you’ve experienced.

Other details about dogs’ memories

Among other characteristics about canine memory spans, below you can find:

  • They have spacial memory. You can test this. For instance, if you change the placement of the furniture in your home they’ll notice the change. If you do it while they’re out taking a walk they might find it odd when they come back.
  • They have associative memory. Dog know when it’s time to eat when you show them their plate. Or, they know it ‘s time to go for a walk if you have a leash in your hand.
  • Also, their great ability to smell and hear things attributes to their memory. They remember smells and sounds better than visual things.

Training and memory

So, how does your dog’s memory function when you’re training them?

Dog getting trained

It appears that their brain develops certain connections.  For instance, if you are teaching them the command “sit” and reward them with a treat, they can retain the connection of “sit – food”. So, each time that you give that command, this connection activates. This is why they do what you want.

In certain stories, your pet understands because their brain has been programmed to respond to get what they want. This might be food, getting petted, or words of praise.

Don’t forget that your dog is a dog

Beyond the way your dog’s memory works, it’s important to remember that they love you and they are always willing to show you their love.

So, don’t forget to show them that you appreciate the love they give you. Also remember, you should recognize that they may sometimes misbehave, but no matter what, your pet is a dog and not a person.