Do dogs remember where they bury bones? The way my dog digs holes all over the yard, I wonder if he doesn’t just dig for fun.
Do you watch videos of soldiers returning home and their dogs giving them a big welcome? Isn’t it fascinating that dogs cherish the memories of their beloved humans, although years can pass without them seeing each other? Dogs are great at memorizing several essential things – and safely stored bones are at the top of the list. Read on to find out why.
A dog’s memory forms around events it recognizes as significant to its survival. It has a natural impulse to conserve its food for the future. If a dog is affected by an event or triggered by strong emotion, there’s a higher chance this memory will become long-term.
People believe a dog can locate the bones it buried because of its sense of smell. In reality, this is more complex. Because dogs are a part of the natural world, their behavior still reflects it, even though they have learned to live with humans. No matter how trained a dog is, it cannot escape its biological makeup.
Why Do Dogs Bury Bones? Do Dogs Remember Where They Bury Bones?
You see your dog digging in your yard once again. Although there’s nothing out there, it always comes back with a treasure. How does it know this was the precise place it buried a bone? What’s the connection between its mental capabilities and its ancestors?
Dogs are descendants of wolves, a notorious species for their hunting abilities. They work together in packs to ensure every member has enough food to survive. Yet nature cannot always provide them with the food they need, so they ration their supplies. Many other hunters do this, dogs included. (source)
Digging a deep hole in the ground works like a natural fridge. The bones buried inside are preserved from decay and sunlight, as well as from other animals. The earth surrounding the bones serves as a marinade, providing a more nutritious meal.
The instinct to preserve some food for when it’s needed has remained in the dog’s brain and way of life. Even if dogs don’t live in the wild anymore, their resources aren’t scarce as they used to be. They have evolved quite a lot from the wild animals they used to be. They’ve adapted to how humans live and have learned to imitate their owners.
Recent studies have been able to provide more insight into the behavior of dogs. There’s more to it than what meets the eye.
Kinds of Dog Memory
Like humans, dogs have various kinds of memory stored in different parts of their brains. The ones most researched are:
- Short-term memory – holding bits of information for a short period.
- Long-term memory – information stored for a long time.
- Associative memory – remembering connections between unrelated things.
- Episodic memory – recalling past actions.
Dogs don’t have excellent short-term memory like other animals. The information is learned quickly and lost just as easily. The human species is the only one able to develop this function further.
Dog’s Memory Explained
A dog’s long-term memory is a much vaster area, where dogs can easily recall past events and feelings. Episodic memories are stored here. It is where a dog’s special memories go, such as coming to their new home for the first time or their owner’s return from an incredibly long trip.
Dogs have great associative memory, making them hard to fool once they see you putting your shoes on. They know it means you’re going out, and they make the connection that they’re about to be taken for a walk. Or that there’s the possibility of it happening. The same goes for more negative associations. Dogs that have experienced trauma might be afraid of people carrying sticks.
A large fragment of a dog’s brain is, for its most precious sense, smell. It’s a dog’s primary source of interaction with the outside world, where many memories are created.
The Keen Sense Of Smell
“While we have about 6 million olfactory receptors, dogs have a staggering 300 million. Their epithelium, or nasal tissue, is about 30 times larger than ours. And while people have between 12 million and 40 million olfactory neurons — specialized cells involved in transmitting odor information to the brain — dogs, depending on the breed, can have 220 million to 2 billion.”
A dog’s nose is an incredible asset it uses every day to help navigate its world. It’s no wonder it comes in handy when digging out that bone it once buried. Its nose updates itself with new smells every day, and with it, its memory.
Unique Ways Dogs Use Their Nose
Dogs use their noses for communication, much like we use eye contact. In truth, more so. A dog can recognize another dog’s scent, even if it’s miles away. More interestingly, it can tell another dog’s gender and mood. Using their smell, they can remember dogs they haven’t seen for years.
Not to mention their ability to know somehow what’s going on with their owners. Dogs are so attuned to our emotions; that they intuitively know when something’s wrong with us. Or celebrate when they get a whiff of joy in the air.
Humans hold a special place in the minds and hearts of dogs. They take care of us just as much as we take care of them, at times more. Why shouldn’t we help them with things out of their control, like dog memory games? They’d do the same for us!
Strengthening Your Dog’s Memory
As dogs get older, their memories get worse. All their cognitive abilities experience a downfall. It doesn’t have to be a painful process – you can assist your dog in its transition into old age.
Older dogs are not the only ones that experience memory difficulties. Genetics and diseases can play their role here, as well as too much routine. If your dog is repeatedly exposed to the same environment, it gets used to it. The same goes for tricks. By repeating the same actions, there’s no chance of it learning something different.
Introduce New Faces
A great way to get your dog to learn something new is by introducing it to new people or new dogs. Faces and smells it never encountered before trigger responses that form new connections. New tricks do the job, too, like brand-new toys and games designed for dog memory training.
Spending more quality time with your dog will be very useful, no matter the kind of practice you decide to proceed with for the pooch. It enjoys spending time with you, and creating lovely new memories for both of you.
Dogs Remember More Than You Think
A dog is called a human’s best friend for a reason. It’s loyal and cheerful and shows you it loves you. Sometimes you can’t recognize that’s what it’s trying to do. It comes in a form you’re unfamiliar with, like a dirty branch or your sister’s half-eaten slipper. Consider yourself a lucky dog owner if your dog brings you its fresh dug-out bone.
Dogs bury bones because they think they might taste better after some time. They also test themselves to see if they can trace back their steps and see if their prize is still waiting for them. You might not realize that you occupy a considerable part of your dog’s memories because you don’t understand how it works. You do, and your dog treasures you more than you think.
- The Washington Post, Ellen Furlong, https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/dog-love-working-home/2020/10/30/75adc50e-1895-11eb-befb-8864259bd2d8_story.html
- Why Do Dogs Bury Bones? https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/why-do-dogs-bury-bones
- Why Do Dogs Bury Bones? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Associative_memory_(psychology)
- Your Dog Remembers Even More about What You Do Than You Think, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/your-dog-remembers-even-more-about-what-you-do-than-you-think/