Knowing about the functions and performance of our dogs’ memory is exciting and at the same time very important in order to better understand one’s own dog in everyday life and to be able to make education and training even more effective. This means that if you know exactly what is stored where and how you can act and react in a more targeted manner. We would therefore like to take you on an exciting journey through the labyrinth of dog memory.
Dog Memory – What Is It?
You will certainly have heard the word memory in many contexts. It describes the brain’s ability to remember, link, and retrieve the information it has received, even at a much later point in time. A lot of information is recorded around the clock via the sense organs.
We can divide dog memory into three different forms:
- Ultra-short-term memory also called sensory memory
- Short-term or equally working memory
- long-term memory.
The Ultra Short Term Memory
Ultra-short-term memory is also known as sensory memory. This is where all the information from the sense organs arrives. It is a kind of temporary storage in which everything that is perceived ends up. This is a large quantity and it is sorted out vigorously. Only the important information is converted into electrical currents and passed on. These only linger in sensory memory for a short time. The information is only there for a maximum of 2 seconds before the information is forwarded or deleted. The next sensory impressions can move up. The ultra-short-term memory filters out the most important information for our brain.
Short-term memory, also known as working memory, is important for conscious information processing. Here, the perceptions previously captured in the ultra-short-term memory are now available for further processing. They are compared with previous experiences and adventures and adjusted accordingly. This comparison or update also takes place with existing information, a constantly ongoing process. This is very important to know, because it is also clear that our four-legged friends learn their whole dog life, even in old age.
A crucial process takes place in short-term memory. The electric currents are converted here. You may have heard the term ribonucleic acid before. Neurobiologists suspect that this is the chemical form into which the electrical currents are converted. This chemical form has a retention time of a few seconds to 1 minute in working memory. From here it can be transferred to long-term memory. However, if they are not further processed within this time window, they disappear, being replaced by newly arriving information. Short-term memory storage is limited. So here, too, it is filtered and checked what is forgotten or transferred to the long-term memory.
Long-term memory is what we aim to achieve with repeated training. After all, this is exactly the information that can be called up again later.
However, in order for the information to be stored longer, repetition is the key to success. Only then can the information be fixed to information that is already available. The electrical currents converted into ribonucleic acid in the short-term memory are now converted back here, namely into proteins.
Knowing this type of memory is very important for training your dog. Because as we know, regular repetition is the key. You should therefore repeat exercises often and continuously with your dog so that the dog’s memory stores them for a long time. Don’t just train one day a week, but on several days in many small units. A training plan or a training diary can help you with this.
Another important factor in training is avoiding particularly emotionally negative experiences or those that are particularly intense for your dog. It is precisely these that are stored fairly quickly in long-term memory. A good example of this is trauma. Since this information is also stored for years, it can, unfortunately, be triggered again at any time and unintentionally, fixed by key stimuli. This can happen in everyday situations where your dog is confronted with such a key stimulus and reacts to it. As a dog owner, this situation can perhaps come as a surprise and be inexplicable.
If you have a puppy, it is best to ensure a relaxed, socially sensitive phase with many positive experiences. Because it is precise during this time that your puppy can learn particularly well and intensively, both positively and negatively.