Can Dogs Forget their Owners and other People?

Dogs have been human beings’ most faithful companions for centuries. But as affectionate as they may be, is it possible that they forget about people?

When we think of dogs, their role as faithful companions of man automatically comes to mind. Dogs were domesticated thousands of years ago and have become one of our best friends ever since. Surely you have wondered how they recognize and trust us. In this article we will try to answer a question: can dogs forget people?

The interactions between humans and animals

Relations between humans and dogs are very complex. From the very beginning of their relationship, including the domestication process, both have undergone changes. Throughout history, there has been a process of natural selection , as a result of which traits that allow the survival of both species have prevailed.

Some studies have shown that dogs are skilled in interpreting the behaviors of human beings, their social and communicative gestures. They are even more adept in this regard than animals that are evolutionarily more related to humans, such as primates.

These skills allow them to establish strong relationships with humans. For example, dogs are able to make eye contact with each other, both with other dogs and with humans. This facilitates communication and allows you to build relationships.

Bowlby was the first to propose the attachment theory. According to this theory, humans try to establish relationships, both physical and emotional, as they are biologically predisposed to it.

The “pet effect” is the name given to the positive effect living with an animal has on a person’s health. Therefore, the relationship between “pet species”, such as dogs and humans, is linked to the release of oxytocin and a positive influence on the health of the individual.

The intervention of hormones such as oxytocin has a double effect: it is able both to facilitate the establishment of relationships between individuals and to reduce the level of stress.

However, there is still a lack of scientific studies that measure a dog’s ability to remember its owner. This is because no owner would want to be separated from their dog just to study how long their pet is able to remember him.

The intelligence of dogs

One might think that to determine whether or not dogs can forget people, one must know the intelligence of the animal. However, talking about memory is not the same as talking about intelligence.

Due to the great diversity of breeds and the genetic diversity present in each of them, it is not so easy to measure the intelligence of dogs .

Dogs are known to have three types of intelligence, while humans have different types of intelligence. The three types of intelligence of dogs are:

  • Adaptive intelligence . It is used for learning and problem solving.
  • Work intelligence . It intervenes in obedience.
  • Instinctive intelligence . Skills determined by genetics and instincts.

Several studies have shown that dogs are able to differentiate a specific human figure. They can also react on their own.

Memory: can dogs forget their owner?

To answer the question of whether dogs can forget people, it is necessary to know the different types of canine memory, which will help us measure their ability to recognize and memorize.

A number of studies support the existence of immediate memory and subsequent memory in dogs. In 2004, research was conducted that analyzed a border collie named Rico. This dog was able to identify 200 different objects.

The study authors concluded that Rico had several cognitive abilities:

  • The ability to differentiate between objects with different characteristics and labels.
  • Learning by exclusion, which is a generalized mechanism.
  • Ability to store information in memory.

For this reason, it can be said that dogs are able to remember their owners, close people and even other pets, even if they have not been with them for a long time. Hence, dogs cannot forget people.

They also have associative memory , so they can remember specific events over a long period of time, which helps them make decisions if they find themselves in a similar situation in the future.

Can dogs forget if a lot of time goes by?

Associative memory allows them to relate events that have already occurred if they are in similar situations. However, dogs tend to remember actions, voices, smells more, because they associate them with an emotion .

If we think of an episode from Greek mythology, Ulysses’ return home after 10 years, the only one to recognize him for the first time is his faithful dog Argo, whom he had raised since he was a puppy.

It can be concluded that dogs cannot forget people . Despite the passing of time, these faithful four-legged friends always remember their masters.

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