Dogs are among the few species that people consider `clever,’ and yet we are still surprised whenever a study reveals that dogs and their owners may share some mental abi lities despite our distant evolutionary relationship,” Fugazza said.
In the new study , the researchers took advantage of a trick called `Do as I Do’. Dogs trained to `Do as I Do’ can watch a person perform an action and then do the action themselves. For example, if their owner jumps in the air and then gives the “Do it!” command, the dog would jump in the air too.
The fact that dogs can be trained in this way alone was not enough to prove episodic memory . That is because it needed to be shown that dogs remember what they just saw a person do even when they were not expecting to be asked or rewarded.
To get around this problem, the researchers first trained 17 dogs to imitate human actions with the `Do as I Do’ training method. Next, they did another round of training in which dogs were trained to lie down after watching the human action, no matter what it was. After the dogs had learned to lie down reliably, the researchers surprised them by saying “Do It” and the dogs did.
The dogs recalled what they had seen the person do even though they had no particular reason to think they would need to remember. They showed episodic-like memory .