Bailey, a dog from the movie A Dog's Purpose, met his owner and best friend Ethan in his second reincarnation. After years of companionship, Bailey died, but he had witnessed Ethan grow from a teenage boy into a young man and has forged a profound friendship with him so that Bailey always remembers Ethan in his next three reincarnations until he finds Ethan again in his final rebirth when Ethan has become a middle-aged man.
It's a really touching movie that many viewers can't help but burst into tears. But is it a fact that a dog can have such a good memory? The answer is no!
It is said that a dog's short memory is only five minutes, but long-term memory is harder to determine. So to figure out this question, it's necessary to know how a dog's brain works.
Just like humans, information that passes through the brain quickly becomes short-term memory whereas information that stays in the brain for several minutes becomes the long-term memory and when needed, the long memory will be recalled, which means man can remember a particular event including time, place and what happened.
However, animals (dogs included) are incapable of remembering specific events. Take dogs as an example, their memory is much like imprints of occurrences, and their memory can be divided into four types, each serving a unique purpose.
1. Episodic Memory
The episodic memory means that they simply live for the "here and now," and they just remember what just happened and present events. For example, scolding your dog for peeing on the sofa an hour after the incident is meaningless, because he barely remembers who did this, instead, he feels confused about your sudden anger. But if you catch your dog peeing on the sofa right and act immediately, your criticism will take effect.
2. Associative Memory
Procedural or associative memory will help your dog build the associations with training that have been stored in the brain. We also take the example mentioned above, when you take the dog to the right place to pee and offer him his favorite snack, his mind creates a connection between the right peeing place and getting a treat.
Dog's neurons within the brain will send a signal that reminds the dog that if he does as he's told he will receive something good to eat. After numerous repetitions his brain will connect behavior and reward even though there is not a reward, it has already become a routine, and your dog will perform as he was taught.
3. Spatial Memory
Thanks to spacial memory that your dog can go somewhere and won't easily get lost as he will record the information for reference. Dogs can recall information about locations or arrangements.
For example, if you change your dog's familiar dishes to something new, he needs time to recognize them. In this case, how long a dog's memory works is by referencing information stored in the long-term memory.
4. Time Memory
Dogs can't recognize the clock, but they can wake owners up on time with training. How does this happen? In fact, they have a natural rhythm that equals an internal clock that provides him with a reminder. Therefore, it's not strange that your dog will wait for you at 8:00 am every morning even if you forget someday.
Except using his memory, the dog also uses his senses including smelling and hearing to help build the connection. For example, dogs recognize their masters after a long absence by relying on the association feeling with the familiar scent.
In conclusion, the reason why a dog pretends to have a great memory capacity is his natural abilities combined with his experiences, which determine how long his memory is. They never recite like a bookworm but can be a master of remembering things around them.