Study Finds Dogs Remember Their Owners' Actions

Evidence of 'episodic-like memory' in man's best friend
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2016 6:05 PM CST

As researcher Claudia Fugazza tells NPR, "most dog owners at least suspected" their furry friends remember the times they've shared together. Now a study published Tuesday in Current Biology offers some scientific evidence to back that feeling up. Fugazza and her team used a training method she developed call "Do As I Do" to get dogs to mimic human actions, such as touching an umbrella. Their method is detailed in this video. In short, researchers showed dogs could replicate an action they weren't specifically trained to do, weren't shown was important, and hadn't ever physically done themselves, the Guardian reports. More than a third of dogs tested were able to replicate a human's action an hour later.

And while Fugazza won't go so far as to say dogs have episodic memory—memory tied to a specific time and place—she does conclude they have "episodic-like memory." "Episodic memory is traditionally linked to self-awareness," Fugazza tells NPR. "So far there is no evidence of self awareness in dogs, and I think there is no method for testing it." However, the fact that only some of the dogs tested could replicate a human's action, even just a minute later, could be evidence that they aren't actually remembering things, the Washington Post reports. One expert says there are "lots of not very exciting explanations" for the findings in the study. (Video of polar bear petting dog goes viral. Now the bad news.)

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