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Do Dogs Have Memories & How Good Is a Dog's Memory? | Pupford

December 18th, 2023

Filed under Pet Parenting

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We never forget our fur babies. Whether it’s the first dog you had as a child or the most recent addition to your family -- our pups live in our hearts and memories forever.

That raises an important question: do dogs have memories? And similarly, how good is a dog's memory?

Do dogs remember all the people in their lives? This question comes up a lot in the instance of rehomed/adopted shelter dogs and dogs whose caretaker passed away. Do dogs remember their toys? Will they know if one had an unfortunate accident and ended up on the “toy farm”? Do dogs remember places? Do they really know when you’ve made that turn that leads to the v-e-t’s office?

Knowing how dogs’ memories work is important for all dog families, as it can help you better understand how they learn and form relationships with the humans in their lives.

Today we’ll be answering a few of your burning questions about dog memories:

  • Do dogs have memories?
  • What types of memories do dogs have?
  • Do dogs remember humans?
  • How can you make happy memories with your dog?

Before we get started, let’s see what everyone thinks:


Yes, research has established that dogs have memories. However, there are many things that experts still don’t know about how good a dog's memory might be!

For example, we know that dogs remember things, but we aren’t quite sure to what extent. More research is currently underway by institutions like the Duke Canine Cognition Center to learn more.

We know our dogs are doing more than just living in the individual moment. They are able to learn behaviors, respond to cues, and form associations between stimuli and their senses/emotions. This principle is at the heart of positive reinforcement training and other training methods. And remember, you can have both positive and negative associations.

For example, a research study at the MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Budapest taught a group of dogs to “do as I do” and perform behaviors based on their memory of what the person was doing when giving the cue. Although accuracy faded slightly over time, dogs were able to perform the correct behavior after a period of time.

What we’re still learning is their level of self-awareness, the cognitive strategies they use to remember events, and whether all dog breeds form memories the same way. We’re excited to see what this research uncovers!

And keep in mind, our memories can certainly be influenced by a dog's health, age, and experiences overall.

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Many people wonder if dogs forget things, and the simplest answer is yes. While we don't know exactly what dogs do or don't remember, some things surely can be forgotten. Especially over time!

As the "do as I do" study and report showed, memory and connections to behavior can fade over time.

Dog memory is certainly a topic that needs more research!

Related Reading: Do Dogs Judge Us?


Could this be your dog? Let’s find out

Even though we're not 100% sure of the full extent of dogs’ memories, there’s plenty that we do know about the types of memories dogs have.

For example, we know that generally, dogs have a few different types of memory cognitions. Whether or not the capacity differs from breed to breed is unsure, but generally, dogs have the following memory types:

  • Short-term memory
  • Associative memory
  • Episodic memory

Let’s dive a little deeper into each. 👇

Related Product: Cognitive Supplement for Dogs & Puppies


You’ve probably heard that dogs don’t have a sense of time. A more accurate statement would be that dogs have very short short-term memories. In fact, a scientific study by National Geographic concluded that dogs can forget an event within two minutes.

This can explain why dogs get excited to see you after you only went out to take out the trash, or why they don’t seem to hold grudges. This is also why pup parents are advised against “punishing” for destructive behaviors when dogs are left home alone -- they likely don’t even remember they did it (plus, it’s more helpful to get to the root cause of why they’re acting that way anyway).


woman on computer researching whether dogs have memories while petting her dog | Pupford

But if animals and dogs forget things quickly, how can they learn the behaviors and training that they know? That’s thanks to associative memory. Associative memory is your dog creating a relationship between two things.

If that sounds familiar, it should! Associative memory is the foundation for positive reinforcement training and learning through associations, aka classical conditioning.

We use rewards to help our dog form an association between hearing a cue and performing a behavior based on that cue. Your dog can also learn to make associations on their own over time, which is why they sometimes get upset when they see you put your shoes on and grab your keys to leave.


While not all details are clear yet on dogs’ episodic memories, evidence suggests they experience them to at least some extent. Episodic memory is the ability to recall a past experience and its context like place, associated emotions, etc. This would be somewhat related to long-term memory.

These types of memories may play a role in reactivity, fear, and anxiety in your pup -- but they could also help them be happy and excited in settings where they’ve had fun before!

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Now let’s get into the question we’re really here for… do dogs remember their families and other people they meet?

The research we’ve previously discussed suggests that yes, dogs remember their humans! It’s just unclear how exactly they remember them.

We see this exemplified in a lot of rescued dogs. For example, if they come from an unhealthy home environment, they may show fear or aggression towards people who resemble the people who mistreated them (men vs. women, children, etc.).

But it also shows up in positive ways. Your dog has probably spotted you in a group of people before and likely greets you excitedly when you come home.


If you care enough to want to make sure your dog’s brain is filled with happy memories, you’re already doing it. The best way to form positive memories for your dog(s) is to give them a loving home and keep them healthy and safe.

Some ways we can do that as pup parents:


multi colored dog recalling a memory about a certain person | Pupford

Our dogs are fascinating creatures with a plethora of abilities. While animal memory, including our dogs', is a topic still being researched we can be assured that dogs do have memories.

How good a pup's memory is, well that's still a topic for debate and research. Remember though, a key importance of our dog's brain and memory is their ability to make connections and learn through operant conditioning. So, train wisely!

And just like us humans, dogs can benefit from supplements to help improve their brain function and abilities. Shop our Cognition + Focus Supplement for dogs here!

While our dogs can’t tell us their memories of us, we can talk about our memories with them! What’s the best memory you have with a dog? Share your stories in the comments!

🐶 Don't miss out, improve your dog's brain function with the Cognition + Focus Supplement. Save here!


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