How Long Do Dogs Remember Getting In Trouble?

Have you ever wondered how long your dog remembers getting in trouble? As a dog owner, understanding your canine companion’s memory capacity can provide important insights into their behavior and how to best train them. This article explores the latest research on dogs’ memory abilities, specifically how long they retain memories of being scolded or punished. We’ll cover key factors that influence how vividly and for how long dogs recall experiences like punishment, from the type of correction used to breed differences in memory skills. Whether you feel guilty hours or days after reprimanding your pup, or wonder why your training efforts haven’t stuck, discovering more about dogs’ memory spans can help enlighten what’s going on in their furry little heads. Read on to learn just how long dogs hold onto recollections of receiving discipline or correction.

Dog Memory Overview

Dogs have excellent long-term memories. Numerous studies have confirmed that dogs have strong memories of things learned in the past. For example, dogs able to recall hand signals and commands for years after obedience training, indicating they have reliable long-term memory see source. Researchers have found that dogs have vivid memories of past events and people, allowing them to recognize their owners after months of separation.

However, unlike humans, dogs are believed to live more “in the moment” and rely mostly on short-term memory for their everyday lives. They may quickly forget an event that happened minutes ago or where they left a toy yesterday, as short-term memory for dogs typically lasts only a couple minutes see source. But anything learned repeatedly or that made a strong emotional impact can be remembered long-term.

Remembering Rewards

Dogs have a remarkable ability to remember being rewarded for desired behaviors. According to research, dogs can remember being rewarded with treats, praise, playtime, or access to favorite toys/activities for weeks or even months after receiving the reward ( The reward pathway in a dog’s brain creates strong memories tied to positive reinforcement. This allows dogs to repeat behaviors that previously resulted in rewards.

For example, if you reward your dog with a treat for obeying the “sit” command, your dog will remember this for up to two months. Your dog will be eager to obey the “sit” command in anticipation of getting another treat. The memory of reward creates a strong motivation for dogs to repeat trained behaviors long after initial training sessions.

Understanding your dog’s robust memory for reward is helpful when housetraining puppies or teaching obedience cues. After consistently rewarding desired behaviors, dogs will remember the connection between action and reward for a significant period of time. However, the initial training stage is key – dogs must first form strong reward memories in order to exhibit trained behaviors successfully weeks later.

Remembering Routine

Dogs have excellent memories when it comes to daily routines and schedules. They can remember specific times of day when certain events tend to occur, such as meal times, walk times, play time, or when their owner typically arrives home from work. This is because dogs are very habitual creatures who thrive on structure and repetition.

According to one source, “Instead, they rely on routines and associations that are formed throughout their lives to recognize ‘what time it is.'” ( Dogs learn to associate certain cues like the sun’s position, a human’s daily schedule, or even slight environmental changes with certain recurring events. This allows them to effectively tell time and anticipate regular activities.

For example, a dog may know that after their morning walk and breakfast, the next thing that usually happens is their owner leaves for work. They also recognize that when it starts getting dark in the evening, their owner will soon return home. The dog associates these environmental cues with the daily routines they have become accustomed to.

Research shows dogs’ memories can be accurate down to about 30 minutes for these types of habitual events. So while they may not understand abstract concepts of hours and minutes, dogs have an excellent sense of their personal schedules.

Remembering People

It seems that dogs have incredible memory when it comes to the people in their lives. According to Whole Dog Journal, dogs can likely remember the important people in their lives for many years, possibly even until death. The strong associations dogs form with their human companions allow them to remember those people long after time has passed.

This is evidenced by videos you may have seen where a dog that hasn’t seen its owner in years still expresses sheer joy at being reunited. As noted in an article from Hola, it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s been 7 months or 7 years – when reunited, dogs clearly remember their people.

Because dogs form such strong bonds and associations with their special humans, they are able to recall and recognize them even after extensive time apart. Their memory for who is important in their life appears to be exceptional.

Remembering Places

Dogs have excellent spatial memory and can remember places they have visited before. Spatial memory refers to how animals remember the layout of environments they navigate. Research shows that dogs utilize spatial memory to remember locations, routes, and pathways in areas they are familiar with.

In a 1995 study published in Neurobiology of Aging, researchers tested spatial memory in dogs of various ages by having them find hidden objects in an outdoor area. They found young adult dogs were able to remember object locations better than older dogs, indicating that spatial memory declines with age (Spatial learning and memory as a function of age in the dog).

According to the Labrador Site, dogs rely on spatial memory to remember important locations like their food bowl, bed, backyard, and walking routes. Their spatial memory allows them to easily navigate environments they regularly frequent. Dogs can form cognitive maps of areas they visit, allowing them to take novel shortcuts and pathways (Do Dogs Have Memories – What Can They Remember Of The Past?).

Remembering Commands

Dogs have an impressive ability to remember commands they are taught for many months and even years later. According to research from, dogs can remember hand signals and verbal commands for at least two years after being taught them. Another study found dogs were able to remember hand signal commands for up to 25 months later.

This research demonstrates that dogs form long-term memories of commands they are taught through training. While their short-term memory may only be a few minutes, dogs are able to store important learned behaviors like commands in their long-term memory for future recall and use. This allows them to remember tricks, tasks, and other obedience behaviors for extended periods of time once properly taught.

Remembering Punishment

Dogs have excellent memories when it comes to negative experiences and punishment. Studies show that dogs can remember negative events for months or even years after they occur. This is an evolutionary adaptation to help dogs avoid dangerous situations in the future.

When a dog is punished, either through scolding, confinement, or physical discipline, they will associate that negative event with whatever behavior preceded it. So if a dog is punished for getting into the trash, they will remember the punishment and try to avoid repeating actions that led to it.

The key is timing – dogs need to be punished within a few seconds of the undesired behavior for them to make the connection. Punishing a dog hours or days later will not change future behavior. Dogs live in the moment and have short term memories.

While dogs have amazing recall of negative experiences, human memory and understanding of consequences is far greater. We must be fair and consistent when disciplining dogs. Regular or excessive punishment can lead to fear, anxiety and damaged relationships. Setting dogs up for success with positive reinforcement is ideal.

According to a study referenced in this article, dogs do not feel remorse or understand the morality of right and wrong. They simply want to avoid further scolding or confinement. So we must be reasonable and sparing with discipline.


After a certain amount of time has passed, dogs will eventually forget the specifics of an event or punishment. 1 Their short-term memory only lasts about two minutes according to experts. So while a dog may remember getting in trouble for a short period after it happens, the specifics will fade over time. 2 For example, if a dog chews up a shoe and is scolded, they may remember the scolding for a couple minutes afterwards. But the specifics like what they did wrong and details of the punishment will soon be forgotten. Dogs’ memories work very differently than human memories in this regard. We tend to remember negative experiences in detail for much longer periods. But for dogs, the specifics fade quickly even if the general sense of being punished remains for a bit longer.

So in summary, dogs have short-term memory for negative events like punishment that only lasts a couple minutes. The specifics are quickly forgotten even if a general sense of the negativity persists slightly longer. Their brains are wired to move on from bad experiences rapidly compared to humans.


In summary, dogs have an excellent memory in many domains relevant to their daily life. They can remember routines, commands, locations, people’s faces and scents, and rewards like food and play for a long time. When it comes to punishments like reprimands and timeouts, dogs have a shorter memory span of about 2-3 minutes. While the duration of the punishment may only be remembered briefly, dogs can still learn long-term lessons from punishment that help shape future behavior. The key takeaways from this article are that dogs have impressive memories for positive associations like play, food, locations and people, but a shorter memory window for minor negative events. Utilizing more positive reinforcement training can be an effective way to build on a dog’s natural memory capabilities.

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