Canine loyalty vs memory: How long does it take for a dog to forget its owner?

It is an age-old question that many dog owners have asked themselves: how long does it take for a dog to forget its owner? Dogs have been humans’ loyal and loving companions for centuries and form solid and deep bonds with their owners. They honor them and are very faithful to their owners as well. But how long does this loyalty last? How long does it take for a dog to forget its owner?

Related media: Your Dog Forgets You When You Leave

Canine Psychology 101

Dogs have a remarkable long-term memory and can remember people, places, and experiences for their entire life. Studies have shown that dogs recognize individual voices and are responsive to tones of voice, as well as having excellent facial recognition. Therefore, it is unlikely that a dog will forget its owner, no matter how long they are apart. Yet, if a dog is kept from its owner for a long time, it could develop separation anxiety.

What Factors Influence A Dog’s Memory?

A dog forgetting its owner is perhaps one of the saddest things to behold. A pet’s loyalty and devotion are unmatched, and it can be heartbreaking when that bond is suddenly broken due to a dog losing its memory. While Alzheimer’s disease (or dementia) is rare in canines, several factors can influence a dog’s memory, including age and emotional connection. Dogs typically use two different types of memory: short-term and long-term. While their short-term memory may be limited, their long-term memory is impressive.

Age can affect a dog’s complex working memory, with all dogs showing a decline in accuracy when the working memory demands are increased with longer delay intervals. Dogs are more likely to remember things and people they have an emotional connection to, as emotions and memories in a dog are connected to their sense of smell.

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Diseases such as Mucopolysaccharidosis I (MPS I) can affect a dog’s olfaction and memory, leading to changes in spatial working memorylong-term memory, and olfactory discrimination. Therefore, owners must be aware of these factors influencing their dog’s memory.

How Long Does It Take For A Dog To Forget Its Owner?

It depends on various factors, such as the dog’s age, the bond it shares with its owner, the trauma experienced, the length of separation, and the new environment the dog is living in. Although there is no definite answer as to how long it takes for a dog to forget its former life and its former owner, research has found that dogs can form strong memories lasting up to two years.

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When it comes to puppies, they have a significantly shorter memory than adult dogs, and thus, they can forget their prior owner in a slightly shorter period. This is because puppies have a difficult time forming long-term memories. Research has found that puppies can forget someone in as little as two weeks. However, this depends significantly on the level of attachment and the type of interaction between the puppy and its former owner.

Canine Loyalty Vs Memory

Sometimes, a dog can remain loyal to its former owner and never forget them, even after years of separation. This is usually seen when the dog and its owner have a very close bond and have been together for an extended period. In these cases, even after years, the dog will still recognize its former owner and be excited whenever it is with them.

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On the other hand, numerous studies and personal accounts have shown that some dogs can become attached to a new owner and forget their former lives and owners in a few days or weeks.

For example, a study published by Dr. Stanley Coren, a well-known animal psychologist, found that the majority of dogs adopted from animal shelters or adopted from families and placed into new homes within three months began to identify with their new owners and forget their former life and failed to recognize their former owners after a period of a few weeks.

Oh, Doggie! Forget Me Not

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Real-life experiences of a dog forgetting its owner can be unfortunate. It is difficult to witness, but it can also bring a constant reminder of mortality and age. Given the complexity of canine emotions and behavior, it is impossible to know precisely how long a dog will take to forget its owner. It is likely that the length of time a dog remembers its owner depends on various factors, including its age, the dog’s personality, and the strength of the bond formed between the dog and its owner.

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Written by: Patrick OkoiFri, Feb 17, 2023.


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