How Long Does it Take for a Dog to Completely Forget About Its Owner?

¬≠Dogs are very good at remembering things. They can sense danger, find hidden food and even remember their owners’ daily routines. And they’re constantly thinking about what will happen next not just today but also tomorrow and beyond. Because dogs have such strong memories, they often try to communicate with us by using body language or vocalizations. If we want to know what they’re saying, we need only look at the ways they act.


So how do dogs know where they left their keys, why they get so excited every time someone new comes into the house and how they manage separation anxiety? The answer lies in the fact that dogs are very smart animals. Dogs possess complex social structures and communication skills similar to those seen among other mammals.


One of these abilities allows dogs to recall events from days past. This is called episodic memory. Episodic memory helps dogs keep track of important information like where they parked their car, where they buried bones or where they put down their leash before walking outside. In humans, this function has been linked directly to the hippocampus.


The hippocampus is a small piece of tissue located deep within the brain. It plays a key role in learning and memory and is responsible for many functions including short-term memory storage (like holding on to names and phone numbers) and spatial navigation (knowing exactly where one is).


Humans generally require more than 10 minutes to fully process any event that took place less than 48 hours ago. However, dogs can hold onto details of recent events for as much as a day or two longer than most people.


¬≠However, there’s another form of memory that dogs use that’s entirely different from human memory. That’s known as semantic memory. Unlike episodic memory, which involves recalling specific events, semantic memory refers to general knowledge. For example, if I were to ask you what kind of tree the oak was, you would likely respond “an American elm.” You wouldn’t say “the largest oak in our neighborhood,” because you probably don’t know each individual tree’s exact dimensions.


This difference between human and canine memory systems means that dogs can’t really tell you what happened last week. A dog might run toward you when you come home, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that the dog remembers you. On the contrary, some studies suggest that dogs can actually help us understand our own memories better.


On the following pages, we’ll explore how dogs store images of their surroundings and learn from them, whether they’re old friends or complete strangers. We’ll also look at how dogs cope with separation anxiety.


Dog Memory and Recall


Dogs are able to recall previous experiences from weeks, months or even years. When a person thinks back upon a certain moment, he or she recalls the sights, smells, tastes and feelings associated with that experience. Dogs perceive the world in a similar way. When dogs see something, smell something or hear something, they react according to whatever they’ve experienced in the past. In order to recall something, however, dogs must first recognize what it is that they’ve seen or smelled.


Recall is a fairly simple concept. Let’s say you saw a tiger while visiting the zoo. Afterward, whenever you see tigers, you’d start feeling nervous. Your reaction is based on your history with tigers. Tigers are scary animals, so seeing one makes you feel scared. The same applies to dogs. Whenever they see something frightening, they become afraid.


In order to recall something, a dog needs to recognize what it sees as familiar. Like children, dogs also depend heavily on context. For instance, let’s say you go to the park to meet up with your friend after work. He’s already waiting there when you arrive. While greeting him, you notice a squirrel running across the field. How would your dog remember him? Would it think the squirrel looked familiar?


Dogs are capable of recognizing familiar faces and objects. In addition, they also learn to associate particular sounds with certain actions. This is called procedural memory. Procedural memory is a fundamental part of a dog’s cognitive ability. It’s used extensively by young puppies. Puppies use procedural memory to learn how to walk, sit down, bark and shake paws. Once a pup learns how to perform an action correctly, it uses that procedure repeatedly until it becomes automatic.


When dogs try to retrieve items from their water bowl, they’re engaging procedural memory. To perform this task, the animal must first learn the correct method of reaching into the bowl. Then it must practice that behavior over and over again to make it habitual. Like humans, dogs also have autobiographical memory. Autobiographical memory is personal memory that includes both positive and negative events. Humans tend to rely on autobiographical memory when they reflect on past events. Dogs aren’t quite as forthcoming with their stories, although they do engage in self-reflection.


Let’s say you leave your pet sitting alone in the backyard overnight. During the night, your dog returns inside the house and begins pacing around the kitchen floor. Later, when you come home, you notice that your dog’s mouth is stained with blood. What would happen if you asked your dog what had happened during the night? Or what did you do to cause your dog’s injuries? Most pets would likely ignore your questions or offer vague answers. Some could even bite you.


Why Are Dogs So Reluctant to Talk About Their Lives?


Separation anxiety is common in dogs. About 20 percent of dogs suffer from some degree of separation anxiety. In most cases, separation anxiety is caused by lack of training. Experts recommend teaching your dog basic obedience commands, such as stay and come, in advance of taking him outside. Also, teach your dog to relax while away from you. Many experts believe that this technique works best for older dogs with chronic separation issues. Older dogs have learned to adapt to situations that no longer exist, whereas younger dogs haven’t yet developed coping mechanisms.


What Is Separation Anxiety in Dogs?


Most dogs display varying degrees of separation anxiety. Even though anxiety is normal in domesticated animals, excessive fear can lead to serious problems. If you suspect that your dog suffers from separation anxiety, you should consult with a vet immediately. There are several treatment options available for separation anxiety, ranging from behavioral therapy to medication to herbal remedies.


Anxiety disorders can affect dogs in multiple ways. One condition is separation anxiety disorder (SAD), which affects about 20 percent of dogs. Symptoms include restlessness, loss of appetite, drinking excessively or eating too much, urinating frequently, panting, trembling, yawning and chewing or licking themselves continuously. These symptoms typically occur either shortly after leaving the owner or when returning home.


Another condition is phobias, which can manifest differently depending on the dog. Phobias affect 5 to 8 percent of dogs. Common phobia triggers include thunderstorms, fireworks, elevators, flying, snakes and spiders. Other phobias, like those related to heights, can result in accidents. Dogs can also develop phobias due to trauma, such as being attacked by another animal or getting lost in unfamiliar territory.


Some breeds are prone to developing phobias. German Shepherds are considered especially susceptible to noise-related phobias. Doberman Pinschers and Labrador Retrievers tend to avoid swimming pools. Golden retrievers sometimes exhibit an exaggerated response to thunderstorms.


Other types of anxiety can arise in dogs. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) occurs in fewer than 1 percent of dogs. OCD causes dogs to obsessively repeat certain behaviors, such as sniffing or chewing. Compulsions range from washing hands endlessly to repetitively scratching themselves. Repetitive compulsions are also referred to as ritualistic behaviors. Canine narcolepsy causes sleepiness and sudden movements. It usually develops in large dogs and is characterized by bouts of falling asleep suddenly or sleeping throughout the day.


There are three main forms of dementia that affect dogs. Early onset degenerative myelopathy (ODM) is believed to affect fewer than 100 dogs per year. ODM is a fatal disease that damages the spinal cord. At least one study suggests that early detection can improve outcomes. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) accounts for 90 percent of dementias in dogs.


AD is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that primarily attacks the elderly. Lewy body dementia (LD) is the second most common type of dementia in dogs. LD is a rare type of neurological disorder that primarily affects middle-aged or elderly dogs. Signs of LD include trouble walking, losing coordination, paralysis, muscle rigidity and hallucinations.


Final Thought


Canines can also develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to repeated traumatic events. PTSD can also be triggered by natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis. Canines suffering from PTSD may exhibit inappropriate responses to stimuli, such as barking and growling. Cognitive dysfunction is a term used to describe conditions affecting a dog’s mental health. Cognitive dysfunction can be attributed to aging, genetics, environmental factors, infectious diseases or metabolic disorders.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.