How Much Do Dogs Remember?

July 23, 2021

I find a dog’s memory fascinating. How much do they remember, and why do they remember it?

According to dognotebook.com:

It’s believed they remember what they need to remember in order to survive. The memory of a certain event can also be induced by fear, thus they remember unpleasant or dangerous circumstances from their past in order to avoid having similar situations again in the future.

We adopted one of our Bichons, Stella, 4 years ago. She came from a home where she was abused. When she came to live with us, she was timid and fearful. She didn’t like men, wouldn’t walk through doorways unless we were at least 6 feet away from her, and she had other behaviors that were, at times confusing, but indicative of a history of abuse.

Over time, as Stella has learned she is safe here and can trust us, her behavior has changed. She is a happy, sweet, and cuddly, little dog now, but it took her a very long time to get to that point.

dognotebook.com also states:

They also have a type of ‘survival memory’ which is connected to remembering owners and those people with whom dogs feel safe and protected. So, if his previous owner was good-hearted and kind to him, the dog probably remembers him.

Yesterday, our daughter, Jennifer, arrived at our house to stay for a few days. Stella hadn’t seen Jennifer in over two years, yet the minute she saw Jenn, Stella went crazy with happiness. She jumped up on her, and wiggled her body in her happy-dance. When Jenn picked her up, Stella nuzzled her head into Jenn’s neck, just like an infant will do. Stella ONLY does this for me. Ever. Until yesterday. We were shocked and couldn’t believe what we were seeing.

Jennifer is the person who rescued Stella from her previous home. Stella lived with Jenn about a week before we could pick her up. Stella felt safe with Jenn. And even after all this time, and although it’s been two years since she last saw her, Stella still remembers her. I love that.

Yes, Stella is a dog. But dogs are like people in so many ways.

Do not underestimate a moment of your kindness. It has the power to change lives in ways you may never know. —Anon

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2 Comments

  1. Charlene Mitchell

    LOVE this post Karen! I know this to be true from a previous dog we had but I would say this is similar for cats also. Our current cat, Snow, was abused before we got her. She still doesn’t like the sound of heavy shoes walking towards her and also if we are carrying something like a broom or rake, it scares her. We suspect she was kicked and hit. Dogs and cats are such wonderful creatures and it is so awesome that your sweet dog remembers her rescuer! Thanks for sharing

    • Karen Schulz

      Ahhh.. I feel for your sweet, Snow. I’m glad you are there to make her feel safe. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s interesting and totally fits with what I read about a dog’s memory.

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