Dogs forged a beneficial relationship with humans thousands of years ago and have achieved the status of “Man’s Best Friend” over the years. Many people deeply love their dogs and have fond memories of them. It’s often fun to wonder if dogs can remember past memories like humans do.
While more research has to be done to know exactly how far a dog’s memory goes, we do know that it’s circumstantial and based on context. So, there’s no definitive answer to how long it takes for a dog to forget you. Here’s what we know so far about a dog’s memory.
A Dog’s Memory Capacity
For years, it was believed that a dog’s memory was related to and dependent on just survival. However, a 2016 study proved that dogs have episodic-like memories and don’t remember things just based on repetition and reward. Like humans, they can remember something for longer depending on the significance of the event.
This study, along with studies on dogs’ self-awareness, opens up the possibility that dogs may be able to remember specific past events. A 2020 study on a dog’s episodic memory further reinforces the hypothesis that dogs may be able to recall certain details of an event.
Now that we know that dogs have episodic-like memories, we can start to wonder about how long dogs can remember specific past events. While it’s not completely clear how long a dog’s long-term memory stretches, we can say that dogs are capable of this type of memory. After all, they’re very skilled in remembering verbal commands and tricks.
Will Dogs Forget You?
A dog’s memory of you is very contextual and will depend on the bond that you’ve shared. For example, if you’ve met a new puppy and spent a few hours playing with it, it may remember you the next day or several days after. However, if you don’t see that puppy again until it reaches adulthood, it may not remember you.
It’s similar with senior dogs. A dog’s ability to remember new information declines with age, and some senior dogs can eventually develop dementia. So, if you meet an older dog briefly, it may not remember you at your next meeting, especially if it takes place long after your initial meeting.
While it’s unclear exactly how long a dog can retain the specific details of an event, its behavior can still change depending on the significance of the event. This is why some rescue dogs that experienced significant harm may develop challenging behaviors or become mistrustful of humans.
However, dogs are able to forge new memories and form strong bonds with humans. If a dog forms an attachment with a loving and responsible owner, the memory of that owner will be deeply etched into a dog’s memory. This is why dogs are able to remember humans from their past even if it’s been years since they’ve seen them. For example, there are countless videos of soldiers coming home and being met by their exuberant and ecstatic dogs.
Dogs are capable of long-term memory and episodic-like memory. There’s a strong possibility that they can remember specific events that you’ve shared together. So, keep showering your dog with love and create fun memories together. Your dog may not remember the specific details for long, but these events will shape its memory of you and only strengthen the special bond you share together.