Behaviour 2019
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"Do that again!" Testing dogs' (Canis lupus familiaris) abilities to repeat recent actions on cue
Allison A. Scagel, Eduardo Mercado. University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, United States

Training dogs to perform specific behaviors relies on their ability to associate cues with specific actions. What exactly dogs remember about their actions is unclear. Most studies of nonhuman animal memory focus on memories for objects, images, or spatial information in species like rats and pigeons. Less is understood about animals’ abilities to flexibly retrieve memories of recent actions and to use those memories to guide their responses to cues. One way to reveal how animals encode and retrieve memories of their own actions is by testing their ability to self-imitate. Training dogs to repeat actions on cue can reveal what they remember about recent actions and how long they retain this information. This project examined self-imitation in domestic dogs using techniques previously applied to bottlenose dolphins and rhesus macaques. We tested two dogs' abilities to recall five trained behaviors immediately after completing an action and after a delay. Both dogs learned the "repeat" cue and one could correctly repeat actions after a delay. This study can advance our knowledge of how dogs learn and what they remember, informing the way dogs are trained in multiple settings.