In a recent study published in Current Biology, psychologist Claudia Fugazza showed that dogs can not only remember their owners’ actions up to an hour later, they can imitate them as well. Like most dog people, Fugazza wasn’t surprised. "Most dog owners at least suspected that dogs can remember events and past experiences," she says. The trouble, until now, has been proving it.
With the help of her colleagues she came up with a "Do As I Do" training method designed to test dogs' memory of events. It teaches dogs to observe actions performed by their owner, then imitate them when they hear the command: "Do it."
In one video the team made, a man approaches an open umbrella on the floor and taps it with his hand as his dog watches. Next the dog is led behind a partition that blocks his view of the umbrella. After a minute, the dog is brought back out and given the “Do it” command. The dog responds happily by trotting over to the umbrella and tapping it with one paw.
All this doesn’t mean you need to enroll dear Fido in medical school, but dog owners may want to think twice before they do something they’re not proud of in front of their beloved family pet. "They're so tuned into human cues, which can be a good thing," says Victoria Templer, a behavioral neuroscientist at Providence College. "But it also can be a disadvantage and make it very difficult, because we might be cuing dogs when we're totally unaware of it."
Chalk this one up to another win for dogs!