Dr Fugazza and colleagues reported online in Current Biology that this showed that the dogs remembered an event they hadn't been concentrating on, the trainer's action. The study found that dogs can recall a person's complex actions even when they don't need to.
So, they did another round of training in which dogs were trained to lie down after watching the human action, no matter what it was.
According to a new study, dogs can remember things they've seen or done in the past, even when they haven't been instructed to do so. The key was figuring out a way to see if the dogs remembered an action when it wasn't rewarded and the dogs didn't realize they were being tested. This kind of recall is known as episodic memory - the ability to mentally travel back in time and remember details about an event.
Finally, they added one more step.
To figure this out, scientists had to come up with a clever way to test their theory, since it wasn't possible to ask the dogs if they really remembered something.
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In the first step, a dog was exposed to a series of actions by its trainer.
One thing the study did not mention was the breeds of dog that were used in the experiment.
To develop the study, experts have tested 17 dogs by using the technique which challenges animals to repeat the actions of their owners. This is known as episodic memory.
Claudia Fugazza, a member of the MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group that carried out the study on dogs, noted that the findings break down the artificial barriers built between humans and non-human animals. Lead author Claudia Fugazza tells us more.
Once the dogs had mastered the "do it" command, the dogs were re-trained to lie down on a blue carpet upon receiving a "lie down" command.
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According to Fugazza, the dogs were even able to imitate the actions up to 24 hours later.
This new study showed that a dog's memory is much more complex than we believed. Dogs often behave in a way that's suggestive of episodic memory, such as staying clear of the neighbour's cat after a particularly nasty encounter. "It speaks to what might be on their mind: that they are remembering episodes that they witness, not just things that they are the subjects of". Once the dogs had been trained to lie down reliably, they were "surprised" by the command "do it".
While 94.1% of dogs successfully mimicked their owner when expecting to do so, 58.8% correctly copied their owner when unexpectedly asked to "do it!" a minute later, and 35.3% correctly copied their owner when unexpectedly given the commanded an hour later. Dogs trained to "Do as I Do" can watch a person perform an action and then do the action themselves.
Fugazza: This study suggests that dogs may encode incidentally and remember much of what we do in our everyday life, although it may seem irrelevant for them. But these suggestions should be sent To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction.
All attempts to understand thinking and memory in non-verbal animals are hard, and Dr Fugazza, Adam Miklosi and Akos Pogany developed a technique that depends on something called "Do-as-I-do training", which itself is pretty awesome.
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