A recent study proved that dogs are not only loyal companions but that they’re actually pretty smart. According to this new study conducted by a team of scientists from the Eotvos Lorand University (Budapest) as part of the Family Dog Project, dogs have a complex memory, being capable of remembering stuff like the name of certain objects and various commands.
The project involved the study of the so-called episodic memory, commonly associated with self-awareness. In a series of controlled lab experiments, doctors Adam Miklosi, Akos Pogany, and Claudia Fugazza, wanted to assess if man’s best friend does indeed possess episodic memory or something similar.
However, since dogs cannot communicate with us through language, the program, and the subsequent experiment had to be adapted. According to Dr. Fugazza, the experiments involved a technique called Do-as-I-do training.
This means that one of the staff did a certain action, and the dog had to imitate him. During the first experiment, one of the doctors tapped an umbrella with his hand, and then asked the dog to do the same. So, after giving the “Do It” command, the dog would tap the umbrella in the same manner as the doctor.
In the next stage of the experiment, the researchers introduced a new kind of command. One of the researchers took the dog to another area of the room where he told him to lie down on the mat. After training the dog to lie down on the mat, and thus explicating ‘lie down’ command, the trainer took the dog behind a black curtain and had him sit there for a couple of minutes.
Meanwhile, the other researchers moved the opened umbrella near the mat. After the dogs were cut loose from behind the curtain, most of them would lie down on the mat. However, the experiment proved that dogs tend to internalize ‘lie down’ commands better rather than ‘do it’.
According to the researchers, the dogs which took part in the experiment did not imitate the ‘do it’ command in unexpected cases, which led them to believe that this is not consistent with episodic memory.
However, the series of experiments performed on several dogs proved that they are indeed capable of memorizing events and actions of associated with events. Dr. Jonathon D. Crystal from the University of Indiana declared that the study’s results are promising and that they can be used to study further the episodic memory, one mental function which, according to his statements, fades away in Alzheimer’s patients.
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