Everyone has seen those absolutely heartwarming videos of soldiers being reunited with their precious pooch after being deployed for many years, right? The dogs’ pure joy and delight are more than apparent, even after their human has been overseas for years.
It is likely to bring a tear to your eye. So, can dogs remember you after a month? A year?
The very simple and blunt answer is that your dog is not very likely to completely forget about you, ever.
Dogs will remember you by relying on both their associative memory and sense of smell, to recollect past interactions, people, and events. And while they do have both short and long-term memory, their short-term memory isn’t their strong suit. They are more likely to remember the feelings associated with a person as opposed to the actual time spent with them.
A Dog’s Ability To Remember Someone
Honestly, a dog’s ability to remember someone is incredible, almost superhuman. While they rely heavily on their associative memory to recall a person or event, they also use their powerful noses to do so. This means that your particular scent will remind the animal of the feelings he felt, during past interactions with you.
Dogs don’t remember the specific experiences, only the emotions felt while actually experiencing them. Compare it to a certain smell that can bring back a sweet childhood memory, or a perfume that reminds you of a past love, it is the same exact concept, although their smelling capabilities are much, much better than ours.
Human VS Canine Recollection
A canine cerebral cortex is simply not as developed as in the human brain. This means that they are unable to support the same level of abstract thinking that we are capable of. Again, not unlike a child, dogs are perfectly able to experience a range of emotions, however, they do not have the capacity to process those feelings in the same way that we do.
While we are able to recall minute details of our memories and distinguish between faces, a dog will use his ultra-superior nose instead, to identify specific humans by scent. Don’t underestimate the power of smell though, your scent, in combination with their associative memory, means that your pooch is not likely to forget you for a very long time, if ever.
Can A Dog Remember Your Scent?
A dog’s nose is truly something special. Their sense of smell is about 40 times stronger than ours. This is likely due to the 300 million olfactory receptors that they have, compared to our measly 6 million.
A canine differentiates between different people (as well as other animals) by their unique and individual smells. This ‘scent memory’ remains for a very long time, meaning that even years of being apart wouldn’t impede your dogs’ capability to recognize your smell. They might not recognize your face but they will know exactly who you are, with just one whiff.
How Long Would It Take For A Dog To Completely Forget About Its Owner?
In their own unique way, canines can remember their previous owners throughout their entire lives. There are countless stories about missing dogs being able to easily recognize their owner years, upon years, later.
As stated earlier, they have both long-term and short-term memory, although not as precise as our own. They depend on their associative memories in addition to their powerful snouts. This means that they associate certain gestures, movements, and voices, but especially smells, with the remembered emotion.
Even those that end up suffering from mental deterioration in old age can have some fleeting memory of previous owners if they hear a certain sound, or smell a once familiar scent. Dogs never, truly, and completely, forget about their humans.
Tell-Tale Signs Dogs Remember You
The signs that your pooch remembers you are unmistakable. Dogs are not exactly masters of disguise, especially when it comes to happiness.
So when they see you they will rarely fight the urge to knock you over and smother you with wet, sloppy kisses.
This is a reaction you will likely see even after a significant amount of time has passed, thanks, in major part, to their spectacular sniffers. The scent is an incredibly powerful sense and your specific smell is likely to trigger his memory even after long periods of time of being separated.
Does My Dog Miss Me?
Like everything else with regard to your dogs’ emotions, the answer is not so simple. While he does not enjoy being away from his human, your dog (or any dog for that matter) has no real understanding of the passage of time.
This, in conjunction with his shoddy short-term memory, means that Fido probably does not miss you in the conventional sense, but he will eventually realize that you’re gone and will definitely remember you when you return.
Dogs tend to live in the present and don’t typically dwell on the past (probably because they don’t really remember it!).
Healthy Dog, Healthy Mind
There is a relationship between health and mind. Providing appropriate exercise, a high-quality diet, and regular veterinary care is obviously important regardless, but it can also impact your dog’s ability to remember you.
Illness and disease (and some parasites if left untreated!) can affect the way the brain and memory work.
Just a little something to keep in mind! If you want your pup to remember you, keep him in good health and up-to-date on vaccinations.
How To Train Your Dog To Have Better Recall Of You
Because your dog does not exactly remember precise details about people, places, and things the same way that we do, the best way to get your dog to remember you is by spending a lot of quality time with him.
Due to their reliance on their associative memory, they need to associate you and your scent with positive experiences. You can encourage this recollection by:
- Going for regular walks
- Plan a fun doggy day out (dog park, pet-friendly beach)
- Take a nap together
- When you leave for short periods of time, leave him something to remember you by, something with your specific scent
In the end, making good, long-lasting memories is the one surefire way to ensure that your furry best friend remembers you, forever.
Key Points About Your Dog’s Memory Of You
- The details of specific events will likely be completely forgotten in less than 30 seconds, however, the emotions and feelings associated with the event will not.
- They can use these remembered emotions to formulate their decisions now, which is why after recognizing your scent all those feel-good love emotions towards you, usually come literally bouncing out of him! He may not know how, but he knows you make him happy.
- The associations stay stored in their brains. They may not remember a face but they’ll know how interactions with you make them feel. They remember the emotions (positive or negative) when they smell a well-known (to them) scent.
- When first reintroduced, your dog may seem a bit stand-offish. This is completely normal, especially if separation is not something they are used to. Patience is the only solution in this situation, give him time, and it’ll come back to him!
Tips For A Planned Separation
If you are seeking the answer to this question, then perhaps you are worried about a soon-to-happen planned separation? Doggie daycare, vacations, and long-distance traveling can all be a very real cause of stress and possibly worrying if your dog will remember you?
You now know that thanks to your everlasting bond, your dog is never likely to forget their favorite humans. To alleviate even more concern, there are a few tricks that can add some assurance.
Pack a ‘Forget-Me-Not Doggy Care Package, to include:
- A favorite, well-known toy
- Something with your individual scent (an old T-shirt is perfect!)
- The treats that YOU always feed him
This is not only beneficial to you, but it is also quite comforting for your pooch. They can and do feel fear and they don’t quite understand the passage of time, so memories of you can provide much-needed support.
After all, they don’t enjoy being away from you any more than you do them. Pups have been known to recognize their owner, after being away from them for more than a decade! Quite literally nearly their entire lives. They may have their own unique way of doing it, but your dog will remember you, always.
Their loyalty is unparalleled and definitely earns (and deserves) the title of man’s best friend. Dogs are unique creatures. Their bonds are unbreakable. They never forget the hand that has fed them.
They correlate you, with every aspect of their lives, such as being fed, walked, and, most importantly loved. As we previously stated, they are unlikely to ever truly forget you, and just living your everyday lives together will strengthen that bond even more. Keep doing what you are doing and you will have a permanent place in Fidos’ heart and mind.