Amazingly, the dogs succeeded in 33 of 35 trials. This suggests that dogs have something similar to episodic memory. Although, the longer the dogs had to wait the more trouble they had recalling the action, like human episodic memory.
The human memory fades at a faster rate when an event isn’t intentionally recorded. For example, you’re more likely to remember your first kiss than a hug last week from your spouse.
To break it down, the dogs were able to remember the “do as I do” trick, even when the owner performed a different trick, but their memory faded with time.
According to researchers, this demonstrates that dogs can remember events they witness (in this case, an action performed by their owner).
But they don’t retain those memories for very long. So, dogs may have short-term, episodic memory, but their associative memories stick with them longer. (More on this later.)
“The study showed that dogs remember events much like we do, and [it] blows out of the water the old way most scientists characterized animal memory,” said Brian Hare, a dog cognition expert at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who was not involved in the study.
“Our dogs’ memories aren’t based simply on repetition and reward.”
The study revealed that episodic memory is not unique to humans. And it did not evolve only in primates.
Though humans and animals do not share the same level of episodic memory or self-awareness, it shows that dogs and other animals recall a lot more than we probably think.
“It’s a more widespread skill in the animal kingdom,” said Claudia Fugazza, an ethologist at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest and the study’s lead author who also said that parrots, dolphins and killer whales could be the next ones to be further tested.
Researchers have already taught these species the “do as I do” trick.
Note: A cat's memory is thought to be at least 200 times better than a dog's.