How Long Is A Dog’s Memory? (The Answer May Surprise You!)

When you leave home to run an errand in town, you may only be gone for a short period of time, twenty to thirty minutes at most. When you get home, however, your dog is as excitable and eager to see you as if you have been gone for an eternity.

That is because, in a dog’s mind, the time between when you left and when you got back really can seem like an eternity! Due to a dog's memory, very short periods of time can sometimes seem much longer than they actually are. So this begs the question: exactly how long is a dog's memory span?

In this article, we will be exploring the answer to this question, and in turn, help you to get a better understanding of how your best friend's mind really works.

Different Types Of Memory

To understand a dog's memory, you need to know that a dog has different types of memory.

The first type of memory a dog has is “associative” memory. This kind of memory is triggered by certain actions that you do frequently that the dog will then be able to “associate” with certain things. For example, frequently saying your dog's name will help them to remember it, or shaking your dog's leash lets them know it's time to go for a walk.

The other kind of memory is a dog's “real” memory. This is basically what a dog will remember normally, without having the benefit of repetition to help them remember. This includes the memory they may have of seeing a person for the first time or, as mentioned above, how long ago you left your house.

How Long Does Each Kind Of Memory Last?

When it comes to a dog's real memory, the time that they remember something is roughly only five minutes. This is why when you leave the house a dog may react as if you have been gone for a lifetime, as they have no real idea how long it’s actually been.

This also plays a factor when you discipline your dogs. Seeing as the memory span for a dog is so short, if they do something like going to the bathroom on the floor while you're away, they may not even remember doing it. So when you go to scold your dog and try to teach them not to go to the bathroom on the floor again, chances are they won't even understand what they are being punished for as they have already forgotten having done the action.

In contrast, associative memory is not so quickly forgotten as your dog has learned certain actions through repetition. The actions that a dog learns through repetition, including their name and certain tricks, can last in a dog’s mind for a long time, even so long as a lifetime in most cases.

In addition to this, when it comes to a dog's memory of someone like a former owner, a dog is unlikely to remember details such as the voice or face of the person. They will, however, remember the scent of the person. This is due to a dog's inherent sense of smell, which is stronger than their other senses, and which is used to help them remember a person and their feelings associated with them.

What We Don't Know About a Dog's Memory

Contrary to what we have stated above, most dogs seem to carry certain memories about locations or other creatures that don't seem to be tied down with what we know about a dog's memory.

For example, there have been tons of stories about dogs that have gotten lost from home miles away but can still manage to find their way back home despite not knowing how to get there or where they are. How they can find their way back is not entirely clear, but it is believed that a dog's strong bond with a location, person, or animal is what helps them to remember and find their way back home.

How Can I Help My Dog's Memory?

If you are trying to get your dog to remember new commands or discipline him, here is a list of ways in which to do so:


Dog's are more observant than you may think, and can often remember certain actions, such as when it's time to eat or go to bed, just by repetition.

Further Research

If you want to know more about your dog's memory or how to train them to remember certain things, the following YouTube videos are a great source of information:


It goes without saying that a dog's memory is not quite the same as a human's memory. Hopefully, now you understand a bit more how a dog's mind works thanks to knowing:

  • The different types of memory a dog has.
  • How long information stays within a dog's mind.
  • How to effectively train your dog to remember things.

If you have any questions or wish to share your insight into a dog's mind, feel free to do so in the comments section. We hope that you found today's article very informative, and we hope to see you again soon! 

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