When asked, dog owners have known to share that their beloved pets have an impressive memory. Now, a recent study supports this idea and suggests that dogs might have episodic-like memory. The research was conducted by a group of scientists in Budapest, Hungary. It was published in the journal Current Biology.
Humans are able to remember and recall past incidents. However, a lot of research hasn’t been conducted on animals for observing the possible episodic memory that they might possess. But the new research has changed that and has come forward with some interesting results for the scientific community.
According to Claudia Fugazza, the current findings act as a source that does away with the fake barriers that have been built between animals and humans. She is also an MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group member. It is the same group that conducted the current research on dogs.
Claudia Fugazza noted that even though dogs have proven themselves to be cleverer than numerous species, a lot of people feel surprised when they get to know that dogs and dog-owners happen to share a few mental abilities even though there is a majority of evolutionary differences between the two.
It was impossible for researchers to simply ask dogs if they had episodic memory or not. That is why for conducting the current research, a training method was used. The said training method’s called “Do As I Do.”
The training consisted of dogs watching a person perform a particular action. For example, the action could be a person rolling over. The same action was then carried out by dogs when they were given a command.
Due to the fact that dogs are able to be trained to efficiently repeat an action, this skill of theirs couldn’t be considered as a result of episodic memory. For episodic memory to exist in dogs, a task should be repeated without an incentive of being rewarded or being asked to perform a particular task.
A total of 17 dogs were trained for the purpose of this study. All of the dogs were trained to mimic human actions by using the “Do As I Do” training method. After watching a human being perform an action, the dogs were then taught to lie down purposefully. After learning this step, the dogs were given a “Do It” command. The command was given without warning. The results surprisingly showed that the action was imitated by dogs even though none of them had been alerted about repeating or remembering it.
The results made it clear for researchers that dogs do have an episodic-like memory because of an action, performed by a person, being able to be recalled by them and even be performed when given a command. At first, the dogs were tested by researchers for a minute and the second test was done after an hour. The results showed that dogs were able to perform the actions during both trials. However, it should be noted that the memories of the dogs reduced with the passage of time.
According to Claudia Fugazza, the results from the current study suggest that when looked from an evolutionary perspective, episodic-like memory isn’t just unique to primates and happens to be a widespread skill with regards to the entire animal kingdom.