How is the memory of a dog?

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dog thinking

Surely on more than one occasion you have wondered how your dog’s memory works, why if you give him a cookie at four in the afternoon the next day at four he goes to you to ask for another, but nevertheless he is unable to memorize that you should not pull on the strap.

The memory of dogs is somewhat different from that of humans, they do not use episonic memory as we humans do but they can however use other types of memory such as short-term memory, spatial memory or olfactory memory among many .

Our dogs have an incredible memory, they are able to remember where they buried a bone even though a few years have passed. We will explain how the memory of a dog works and why they are able to remember some things and not others.

dog thinking

How does our dog’s memory work?

No one really knows how their memory works for sure, but there are many scientific studies that have been carried out and based on the results, it is suspected that the memory of dogs works in several ways, they use a different memory system than ours, we explain it to you.

Since they are puppies, dogs use a type of memory known as procedural memory, which helps them learn the things we are teaching them, how relieve yourself away from home or give the leg when we ask.

This type of memory for learning is perfected with repetition, so when we train a dog we must always rely on repetition of the exercise, with a reward when it is done correctly. The dog’s brain does not learn our language, but it quickly learns to get food based on making certain movements when we order it.

We all know that eating and looking for food is a primary basic instinct in dogs, so the use of food to reward a well-done exercise is what their brain values ​​most. In other words, giving our dog a prize when he does something right is the best way to memorize.

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The procedural memory is strongly engraved in the brain of our dogs, making it to be used almost unconsciously in the future. A dog will automatically give you the paw to get its prize, without thinking, because its brain already knows that by giving the paw it will get food.

This type of memory becomes associative with time, so that the dog will quickly learn everything that has to do with food. Associating food with certain movements is the best way to memorize what they have.

dog talking to another dog

Short-term memory in dogs

Dogs have long-term memory, they are able to remember the education and training exercises that we instilled in them when they were puppies. But they also have short-term memory, that is, they can remember what happened a few hours ago.

However their brain does not function like ours, we are able to relive the moment step by step while they only relive the important part. As an example, if we walk through the park and stumble upon a stone falling to the ground and hurting ourselves…. We can remember that we left the house and went for a walk in the park, that it was a beautiful sunny day and that we stumbled. A dog in the same situation only remembers that falling hurts.

Dogs have short-term memory but it is very selective, they remember how important not the unimportant details how we humans do it. However, when it comes to eating or protecting yourself, your short-term memory can stretch indefinitely.

As an example, if the dog knows a human and the human mistreats it, the dog will memorize that the human is bad for a long time. The same happens if an unknown human gives him a cookie, every time he sees him on the street he will go looking for him to get a cookie again.

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dog sniffing things

The olfactory memory of dogs

Dogs have an olfactory memory that is simply amazing, their brains are able to associate odors to different places and even different situations. We must not forget that the nose of a dog is more than a thousand times better than that of a human, its olfactory capacity is unsurpassed.

A dog’s brain makes and memorizes an olfactory map of everything, of his house, of the park where he goes for a walk and even of the areas that he visits for the first time and may not visit again in years.

Humans can see with our eyes and create a mind map of our environment to interact with it, dogs in addition to the visual mind map also use an olfactory mind map, capable of indicating a large amount of detail without using their sight.

Has it ever happened to you that your dog meets someone new and growls at him or does not allow himself to be touched by him? It is because that person possibly emits a smell that indicates the dog something negative, that activates the associative memory of the dog and identifies it with something bad.

dog happy for petting

The distinctive memory in dogs

If there are several people at home who treat your dog, they are able to remember the details of each one. Dogs have a kind of distinctive memory that allows them to interact differently with each person.

As an example, if you take your dog for a walk, you may let him play, smell everything, bite his leash or jerk. However, if your sister also takes the dog for a walk and she has always forbidden them to pull the leash or bite it, they will not do it with her.

Dogs know what they can and cannot do with each person, individually. In the same way that they know that humans will give them prizes and pampering every time they see them and which ones don’t.

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They are able to learn the different customs of each human and adapt to them, something really impressive. A dog’s memory is designed to survive, so looking for food or avoiding danger is always what it retains best, in any of its variables.

educational dog games

How to improve a dog’s memory

The best way to improve a dog’s memory is through stimulation, carrying out training exercises, improving its education, etc… If we make our dog use his memory daily, he will gradually improve over time.

Studies reveal that a dog’s memory capacity is directly related to its intelligence, that’s why when tests are carried out to find out what they are the smartest dog breeds in the world practical memory exercises are always included.

There are also educational games for dogs that stimulate their memory, they are simple games that we can find in any specialized dog store. These types of games can be used since they are puppies and they really help.

We must bear in mind that older dogs do not have the same memory as young dogs, when a dog enters the “senior” stage or what is the same, when it is already a grandfather, its memory tends to worsen, it is completely normal .

Dog using olfactory memory


Not all dogs have the same memory capacity, but we can work and stimulate that capacity through games and training. Using food as a reward is the best option for your brain to learn faster.

There are no dogs without memory, there simply are dogs with little capacity to memorize for genetic reasons or because they have not been stimulated.

Remember that a dog can memorize throughout his life th
at you once hit him, so you should never mistreat a dog, because it will cost you a lot, but it will take a long time for your dog to change that piece of memory. Always use the positive reinforcement to educate your dog and thus he will always have good memories of you.