Dogs have kind of "episodic memory", which gives them remarkable ability to remember and recall events from the past, according to a recent study. The study, published in the Current Biology journal, found that dogs can recall a person's complex actions even when they don't expect to have their memory tested.
"The results of our study can be considered as a further step to break down artificially erected barriers between non-human animals and humans," said researcher Claudia Fugazza. "Dogs are among the few species that people consider 'clever,' and yet we are still surprised whenever a study reveals that dogs and their owners may share some mental abilities despite our distant evolutionary relationship," she added.
Evidence shows that non-human animals use episodic-like memory because one can't just ask a dog what it remembers. In the new study, the researchers took advantage of a trick called "Do as I Do." Dogs trained to "Do as I Do" can watch a person perform an action and then do the action themselves. For example, if their owner jumps in the air and then gives the "Do it!" command, the dog would jump in the air too.
They showed episodic-like memory. Dogs were tested in that way after one minute and after one hour. The results show they were able to recall the demonstrated actions after both short and long time intervals. However, their memory faded somewhat over time. The researchers say that the same approach can most likely be used and adapted in a wide range of animal species, to better understand how animals' minds process their own actions and that of others around them.
"From a broad evolutionary perspective, this implies that episodic-like memory is not unique and did not evolve only in primates but is a more widespread skill in the animal kingdom," Fugazza said. Adding, "We suggest that dogs may provide a good model to study the complexity of episodic-like memory in a natural setting, especially because this species has the evolutionary and developmental advantage to live in human social groups."