They remember, they never forget. So many people ask me if my dogs will remember them. Now, logically there may be dogs like humans who just don't remember things easily. But I have yet to meet one of those dogs; although I have met many humans who don't remember. I visit one pet store regularly to get the dog food items that I purchase every couple of months or so. I don't buy a lot of dog food but I like to have a small bag and several cans on hand. I have been frequenting the store for years; had many in-depth conversations with the owner and even brought Luke and Elsa in. Still, each time I go in it is like she has never seen me before. Strange.
When a dog meets you; he/she has met you. Your scent is put into their memory bank to draw upon in the future. Just the other day I went to visit a past training client who happens to be one of my all time favorites guys. He is a very large German Shepherd dog, who is stunning and intimidating; with his huge head and big boned, solid build. It had been years since I last saw him; I wondered how long it would take him to remember. I did not wonder if he would remember; but how long it would take for my scent to jog his memory. As I entered the gate he came charging down the stone steps at full speed. If you were not a friend, it would be a good time to turn around and leave. I called his name and his ears perked even higher up than they had been. It took only a second for him to remember and the whining began. I had to grab the railing to steady myself as all of his nearly 100lbs celebrated our coming together; the joy was completely mutual.
When you have a dog that has an inhibited body language; it can be difficult to tell when they remember. But, if you have a dog that is very showy with their emotions; you can be sure that dogs do indeed remember. Both Luke and Elsa are very easy reads; they display largely and over the years they have shown me that dogs simply don't forget dogs or people that they have previously met. I have a very good friendly that met Luke when he was young; it was a brief encounter, only a couple of hours. She did not see him again until four years later. My friend did not think he would remember; I knew that he would and he most certainly did. He only reacts to very good friends the way he reacted to her; he knew that he'd met her before and was thrilled to see her again.
Dogs are superior to humans in so many ways. Not only do they always remember; they can associate scents to other people. When my kids were young teenagers we always had a houseful. When a parent would come to pick up one of their children that Luke had never met before; he would act like he already knew the person. It always shocked me that he was able to put pack members together. Luke was a very guarding and protective youngster so when I saw him openly accept strangers into his house because of a scent similarity, it was amazing.
I am pretty good at remembering a face, names, not so much. If I've met you I will remember; but it might take me a very long time to remember where, when and why. Recently I have been interviewing a lot of pet sitters. One sitter came to the house and I immediately thought "I know this person." We talked a bit and I told her that she looked very familiar to me; so we discussed where we could have met. Turns out I met her way back in the beginning of my training career; when I was just getting into group training, and of course I remembered the dog that she had back then. Now, if Luke and Elsa had met her 14 years earlier; they would have known it immediately.
Dogs are truly amazing, but these little signs can only be realized if you understand your dogs body language. You will miss so much of what they know if you can't see it. Even if you have a dog that is an exuberant displayer; you have to cipher through the excitement to understand what it all means.