As dog owners, we often create cherished memories with our pets that last us a lifetime. However, when an owner has to spend a long time apart from their dog or has to give up their ownership entirely, dog owners may begin to worry their favorite canine will forget them.
Don’t worry. Those memories aren’t going anywhere.
Dogs can remember their owners’ smells, sights, and sounds for their entire lifetime, so dogs will never forget their owners regardless of how long a dog and its owner are separated.
The same goes for a new owner, as dogs can remember multiple owners. However, the memories of their old owners may affect their behavior after they are adopted.
Read on to know how these memories impact a newly acquired dog and what you can do about it.
Will A Dog Forget Their Owners?
To understand why dogs will never forget their owners, it’s essential to know how a dog’s memory processing works.
Dogs rely almost solely on associative memory. This means that their memory primarily uses sights, smells, and sounds to remember and identify the world around them.
When a dog experiences one of these senses, it will remember the sensation for its entire life.
Despite their strong associative memory, dogs are very limited in their short-term memory. They are unable to remember events beyond even two minutes.
For example, your dog would not remember when you took it to the park last Tuesday, but it would recognize the park’s smell and precisely understand where it is.
Strength Of Dog’s Memories
These associative memories will always remain strong in a dog’s mind.
It allows them to remember their owners due to the smells, sounds, or sights they have already connected to the owners despite not having any memories of a particular event with them.
A dog’s memory strength does not just apply to its owners, as a dog will remember anyone they meet regardless of how short the interaction is.
However, the strongest memories belong to their owners, who they typically spend the most time with.
Health and Age
While it remains true that the memories of its owners will not fade away, a dog could have challenges accessing these memories if the dog’s senses are damaged.
This can be due to injury, illness, or old age (for example, some dogs may begin having some hearing loss when they reach old age).
If one of the dog’s senses are damaged, it will become more difficult for them to identify their owner and use those associative memories.
However, these occurrences are very rare, and as long as your dog is in good health, it will have no issues remembering its owner.
Do Dogs Miss Their Previous Owners?
When a dog is separated from a previous owner and adopted by a new one, it will likely bring on a bit of a transitional period that may affect the dog’s behavior as it gets adjusted to its new life.
With the dog being used to its previous ownership, a newly adopted dog may show signs of separation anxiety and stress, especially if it had a strong bond with its old owner.
The symptoms of stress are if a dog is shaking, shy, skittish, or overall unfriendly while under new ownership.
These reactions are entirely natural for a new dog and will likely go away with time. The longer a dog spends time in its new home, it will become increasingly comfortable.
The effects of anxiety and stress will also begin to fade away and also miss its previous owners less.
Not all dogs will face stress or anxiety symptoms while adjusting to a new life.
Sometimes these transitions in ownership can be easy for the dog, and they will show no signs of missing their previous owners, becoming quickly comfortable in their new home.
However, just because a dog stops showing signs of missing its previous owner, it doesn’t mean that the memories of its past life or owners are any less strong.
If a dog is reunited with its previous owner, it will still be just as exciting as if they were never separated in the first place. This can be true despite how much time may have passed or how adjusted the dog is to its new owner.
The memories of their past owners are never going away regardless of how much the dog’s environment or behaviors have changed.
How Long Does It Take For a Dog to Adjust To a New Owner?
There is no exact science as to how long it will take for a dog to adjust to a new owner, as some dogs become more comfortable in new environments than others.
While it would be difficult to predict how quickly a dog can get used to a new owner, there are a wide variety of factors that could impact its transition.
Relationship with Previous Owner
If it was with the previous owner for many years, it might take a while for a dog to break from its old habits.
On the other hand, a dog who was only with a previous owner for a short amount of time may not need much time to get used to a new lifestyle.
Comfortability in New Environment
If a dog begins to live in a drastically different environment than its previous home (going from living on a large farm to a tiny apartment, for example), it may take longer for a dog to be comfortable in its new surroundings.
But if the old home and the new home are somewhat similar, this could speed up the transition process.
The Age of the Dog
Typically, younger dogs become acquainted with new situations faster than older dogs that have become used to the repetition of their old owners.
Time Spent With its New Owner
In addition to their surroundings, dogs also require time to become acquainted with their new owners.
The more time a dog spends with its new owner, the stronger bond it will build and the more quickly it will begin to bond.
Once again, these factors are difficult to measure. While understanding each of these factors can give a new owner a better understanding of what the dog is going through, each dog will uniquely act as they come under new ownership.
What To Do If Your Dog Misses Its Previous Owner?
If your new dog appears to be missing its previous when it becomes newly adopted, there is no need to worry.
It is entirely natural for dogs to show signs of anxiety while adjusting to a new environment, and it will be something that will go away over time.
However, there are ways to help your new dog’s transition to its new home.
The best thing to do is spend as much time with your new dog early on to become rapidly more comfortable with you.
This helps them feel more secure in their new environment while they begin to break the habits of their old lifestyle.
Spending time with your new dog allows them to see that you are safe and friendly and also gives them a chance to recognize you as the alpha in their environment.
Once this respected level is reached, a dog will become more obedient, looking up to their new owners as the leader rather than holding their previous owner in that regard.
Give Your Dog Space
If added attention doesn’t improve your dog’s homesickness, giving it space can also be beneficial.
Allowing your new dog to explore the new environment on its own and get comfortable at its own pace can help them naturally move on from their previous owner and make them more open to taking on new ownership.
Regardless of how long it takes for a dog to become used to a new owner, we encourage any new owner to be patient with their new dogs.
Letting the dog adjust at its own pace is key! The transition process may take a while, but the dog will eventually become comfortable.
Can a Dog Remember Multiple Owners?
Due to the strength of a dog’s associative memory, there is no known limit to just how much a dog can remember.
With this, a dog will remember its owners for a lifetime. A dog can essentially remember an unlimited number of former owners.
However, whichever owner a dog spends the most time with will likely be the owner that the dog has the strongest bond with, as they would have had the most experience with their sensory details.
A dog’s strong associative memory will never forget any of its owners despite how long they may be apart from each other.
As a dog adjusts to a new home after a previous owner, it is vital to be patient with their adjustment and focus on building a bond with their current owner to ensure their happiness.
However, the memories of their previous owners will still never fade away.