The memory of dogs is more human-like than previously thought, allowing our furry pals to copy our actions, even after delays.
The discovery, outlined in the latest issue of Animal Cognition, means that dogs possess what’s known as “declarative memory,” which refers to memories which can be consciously recalled, such as facts or knowledge.
Humans, of course, have this ability, as anyone playing a trivia game demonstrates. But it had never fully been scientifically proven in dogs before, although dog owners and canine aficionados have likely witnessed the skill first-hand for years.
Claudia Fugazza and Adám Miklósi of Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary conducted the study. A LOT of dog studies happen in Hungary, where people really love their pooches and some of the world’s leading canine researchers live.
The team investigated if dogs could defer imitation, which in this case meant copying what their owners were doing. Eight adult pet dogs were trained using the “Do As I Do” method. (Fugazza is a leading expert on this training method for dogs.) The tasks included copying their owners walking around a bucket and ringing a bell. Can dogs then successfully replicate what they learned after a 10 or so minute distracting break?
Fugazza described what happened next with one owner-dog pair:
The owner, Valentina, got her dog Adila to pay attention to her. She then demonstrated an activity, like ringing a bell with her hand.
Valentina and Adila then took a break, with both doing whatever they wanted to do. Sometimes they played together with a ball, or relaxed on a lawn. Adila happily sniffed around and barked at passers by.
After the break, Valentina went to her original starting position and gave the command “Do it!” Adila knew exactly what came next. The attentive dog rang the bell. Adila even did this when a human stranger, who didn’t even know what the prior activity (bell ringing) was, gave the same command.
In other words, Adila aced the experiment.
The study adds to the growing body of evidence that many animals experience the world in any given moment somewhat as humans do, with knowledge of the past and present in mind and the likely ability to imagine and predict future scenarios.
(Image: Quinn Anya, Flickr)