You thought they were just passive, drooling observers to your antics.
You thought their lobotomized stare and permanent state of excitement meant they're cute, but also kinda dumb.
And you surely thought forgot the trauma of being in the room while you and your Tinder friend "finally tried anal."
You thought wrong.
Turns out, your dog is much smarter than that. According to a new study by the Comparative Ethology Research Group, dogs are smarter and more human-like in their thought process than ever previously imagined.
Specifically, their capacity for memory recall seems to be light years more evolved than anyone thought, a discovery researchers say has the potential to upend science's current understanding of non-human intelligence.
"What we learnt is that dogs have episodic memory," lead researcher Dr. Claudia Fugazza told Broadly. Episodic memory is the type of memory that records seemingly insignificant events that were unimportant at the time of encoding such as what you wore to work yesterday, what you ate two Saturdays ago, or what the name of the person whose bed you just woke up in is. Basically, it's shit that happens to you but is too trite to merit actual thought.
However, while individual episodic memories are usually inconsequential, the capacity to form them is a hallmark of higher intelligence. And although some researchers say they've observed it in mammals and birds, many prominent theories of evolution posit that it's a recently developed function singular to humankind … which is exactly why Fugazza and her team wanted to see if dogs had it.
To test this, her team trained some science pups to imitate physical human actions like jumping in the air or laying down. By training the dogs to wait a moment between the demonstration of the human action and the command to initiate their own action, they were able to see whether the dog's episodic memory would kick in; the thought being that if the dog waited for the right amount of time before jumping itself, that would prove it was able to recall episodic events.
However, the caveat of this study design was that, in order to prove the existence of episodic memory in the dogs, the researchers had to make the commands to imitate unexpected — otherwise they'd just learn to jump after a few seconds and that would prove nothing.
"If the dog expects that it will be required to imitate the move later, then it will require on its semantic memory and won't need to mentally travel back in time to recall the demonstration," Fugazza explained.
In order to make the test unexpected, her team had to modify the expectations of the dogs. That meant giving them a different command than the one they expected.
"The dogs would expect a command to imitate, but we'd give it a command to lie down. Then they'd expect another lie down command, but we'd give them a command to imitate," Fugazza continues. "We found out that they could remember how to respond to the different commands."
And just how long did these memories last? That varied from dog-to-dog, but the memories did decay after longer periods of time, just like in us stupid humans.
"This is a step towards bringing down the artificially erected barriers between humans and other animals," said Fugazza, explaining that this means doggos of the world have a much greater understanding of their own existence than any of us simple humans have given them credit for. "Episodic memory is linked to self-awareness," she continued. "And at present it is not known if dogs are self-aware or not. I think we might be a little step closer to being able to answer those questions."
As for whether your dog remembers that time it walked in on you dancing naked in front of the mirror covered in shaving cream? Well, it might just have the self-awareness and able memory to know that was one fucked up day.