Decoding The Length Of A Dog’s Memory


Have you ever wondered just how long our four-legged friends can hold on to their precious memories? 

From heartwarming reunions after many years apart to tricks they never forget, dogs seem to possess an uncanny ability to remember things that leave us in awe. But, how much do they remember, and are their cognitive abilities similar to ours? 

Well, in this article, we’re embarking on an exciting adventure in the world of canine cognition, and unraveling the mystery behind the length of a dog’s memory. 

The Memory Of Man’s Best Friend

mans best friend

These faithful furry companions and our cherished best friends have an extraordinary ability to etch themselves into the depths of our memories, but what about their memories? 

When it comes to researching a dog’s cognitive abilities and knowing exactly how much they remember, there is actually no definitive and accurate way to tell for sure the right answer since dogs (obviously) can’t talk and tell us. 

However, sometimes actions speak louder than words and researchers have used this to try to find out the answer to this mystery. 

Obviously, through various anecdotal evidence, we know that a dog’s memory is actually very good since many dogs have proven that they can remember their previous owners and even traumatic things that happened to them years ago. 

But, of course, the individual memory between various dogs can vary a lot, just like it does with humans.   

Pawprints Of Time

“There are many stories about the memory of dogs, but only a few experiments have been done,” Ádám Miklósi, head of the ethology department at Eötvös Loránd University, in Hungary, told Dog Fancy. 

However, each year, there are more and more studies being done. 

In 2015, National Geographic reported that “dogs forget an event within two minutes” [1], citing a 2014 study done by Johan Lind and his team at Stockholm University, Sweden. 

On the other hand, Dr. Claudia Fugazza has obtained results that “dogs are able to remember a human action for more than 12 hours.” [2] One thing is for sure – canine cognitive abilities are more complicated than everyone thought. 

In the most recent study, done by Dr. Fugazza and her colleagues [3], dogs were tested based on their episodic-like memory using a modified “Do as I Do” technique. 

Basically, dogs were trained and tested on repeating a small set of actions, including some actions that are performed spontaneously in everyday situations.

Dogs showed the ability to repeat actions after delays ranging from a few seconds to 1 hour. Although their accuracy faded a bit over time (typical for episodic-like memory), the researchers were able to conclude that dogs are able to remember a lot more than previously thought.  

A Dog’s Long-Term Memory 

dog thinking about owner

“Dogs and cats have different types of memories, just like we do. They have spatial memory, remembering where things are located, short-term memory, and long-term memory,” said Dr. Brian Hare, from Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina. [4]

There are many examples of dogs having long-term memory, both in real life and in different studies.

In a 1999 study conducted by Dr. Gillis C., it was found that dogs have an exceptional long-term memory of up to 5-and-a-half years. Researched dogs were able to recognize their kin even after being separated for a long period of time. [5] 

However, examples of long-term memory can easily be found in everyday life. 

For example, I’m confident that you have seen videos of dogs recognizing and being very excited to see their parent coming back home after spending years serving in the military.

The same goes for fears and traumas from the past. 

“I have seen many patients who are scared of tall men, hats, certain noises, etc., which they can relate to a negative memory or event that has happened in the distant past,” said Dr. Jenna Sansolo, associate veterinarian at Ardsley Veterinary Associates, in Ardsley, New York.


Although more research is clearly still needed, so far, it has been proven that a dog’s memory capabilities are more complex and enduring than previously thought. 

Dogs have demonstrated and continue to demonstrate the capacity to recall events, commands, and people even after extended periods of time. 

Whether it’s reliving cherished moments or learning from past experiences, a dog’s memory is an integral part of what makes them our faithful and cherished best friends. 


[1] Owen, J. (2015, Feb 26). Many Animals—Including your Dog—May have horrible Short-Term memories. Animals, National Geographic.

[2] Mizer, D. E. (2014). Inside Your Dog’s Mind. Dog Fancy. 

[3] Fugazza, C., Pongrácz, P., Pogány, Á. et al. (2020). Mental representation and episodic-like memory of own actions in dogs. Sci Rep 10, 10449, 

[4] PetMD Editorial. (2017). Do dogs and cats have Long-Term memories? PetMD.

[5] Gillis, C., Legarsky, M., Lenker, L., Falkevitz, J., & Carr, W. J. (1999b). Scent-Mediated Kin Recognition and a Similar Type of Long-Term Olfactory Memory in Domestic Dogs (Canis Familiaris). In Advances in Chemical Signals in Vertebrates.