Our dogs' memories are more than just the 'click and reward'. Scientists found out that our dogs remember in the same way that we do.
Scientists performed series of experiments to find if dogs have episodic memories and whether as complex, arbitrary and random human memory recall are, would dogs exhibit the same episodic memory recall. Episodic memory involves awareness of self and your surroundings to be able to draw out the cognitive recall. Though our memories are complex, we still remember them in events that sometimes are required for our survival or coping. Species like Western scrub jays, hummingbirds, rats, and the great apes have used these complex recall sequences in order to survive.
Dogs were then tested for their capability to recall episodic sequences or events not necessarily required for survival, that we humans do most of the time. To find out, 17 dog owners were asked to perform a task called "do as I do" with their dogs.
Episodic memory recall tested to dogs must be done in such a way that command were not something that the dog anticipates like in 'click and reward'.
“You have to test them when they don’t expect it.” said Claudia Fugazza, an ethologist at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, and the study’s lead author.
The dog owners instructed their dogs to lie down while they performed some simple series of gestures like touching an umbrella or stepping up on a chair. Just as the dog lied down and prepared to relax, the owners would unexpectedly command, "Do it!" The dog then had to remember what actions had been done for it to do the same. The dogs were tested within 1 minute and an hour after watching their owners.
The dogs have succeeded 33 out of 35 in the test. The result suggests that dogs indeed have something similar to episodic memory. Dogs also exhibit the same episodic memory decline in faster rate when not intentionally recorded just like humans'.
The researches claimed that this is the first evidence of episodic-like memory of others’ actions in a non-human species, and it is the first report of this type of memory in dogs.
Now we can understand why dogs tend to mimic their owners mannerisms. That's probably a result of episodic memory aided in complex repetition, more apparent when our pets grieve.
The research is published in Cell