Do dogs remember you hitting them?

If they are hurt, do they harbor anger, resentment, and negative feelings in their canine psyche? Yes, in some capacity, dogs remember something negative that caused them harm. Dogs growl at certain people, wag for others, and snarl at a dog who barked at them one time on a walk.

So you got angry and hit your dog, and now you’re wondering if he’ll forgive you.

The honest answer is almost definitely yes. But before you settle in, let’s take a closer look at the issue of smacking dogs, which frequently sparks debate and conflict.

There’s also the biological issue; dogs don’t think the same way as humans do.

Understanding a Dog’s Memory

Do dogs remember you hitting them?

Dogs can recognize their owner’s voice or associate the chink of your car keys with leaving the house, though these abilities are simpler than human memory. Dogs also have episodic memory, which we refer to as associative memory. Let’s examine these in greater detail.

Dogs have a short-term memory, lasting up to two minutes, which explains why it’s necessary to act immediately when a dog does something wrong. Any action you take will be ineffective after that time. Interestingly, bigger dogs have a more extended short-term memory than smaller ones (source).

As long as you do not consistently mistreat or physically abuse your dog, they are very forgiving and eager to please. If they don’t forget it within two minutes, they won’t likely remember it for more than two days.

The memory will vanish more quickly the closer your bond is with your dog. Dogs typically feed off your energy, so if you are calm and upbeat, they will probably respond positively.

Associative memory is where the dog connects a sound, smell, the sight of something, or some other sensation to an event, usually one that is pleasant to the dog. For example, if your dog sees their leash in your hand, they can immediately associate this with the happy prospect of going for a walk (source).

Dogs have amazing senses of smell and hearing, and they can even recognize the fading of their owner’s scent as the passing of time. According to one study, dogs can predict when their owners will get home by judging how much of their owner’s scent is still on them.

Several animals show that they have very strong and long-lasting associative memories, such as a dog that remembers the smell of a vet after surgery (source).

A hit dog is also subject to the high level of association through sensation. This is a type of long-term associative memory because if you strike them repeatedly in a situation that is similar to it, they might start to associate being hit with that situation.

Although this can be helpful for training through the use of gentle corrective taps, using too much force can quickly cause the dog to associate you with unfavorable treatment, damaging your relationship with the dog.

A Hungarian study in 2016 revealed that dogs also have episodic memory, which is the ability to remember explicit events from the past (source). It differs from associative memory in that it is based on more than simply the relationship between two things.

Episodic memory is one component of declarative memory. With episodic memory, a dog has the ability to “refer back” and recall information about the circumstance or place when you hit them (source).

The researchers trained dogs to mimic their owners’ actions by giving them the “Do it” command. After that, they underwent training in which the dogs were required to lie down whenever they witnessed a human action, regardless of what that action was.

The intention was to remove the requirement that they must recall their owner’s behavior in order to mimic it. Then, all of a sudden, they would change, and the owner would say, “Do it,” then follow through. The dogs would still imitate their owner’s move successfully.

They even tried issuing the command multiple times, ranging from once every minute to once every hour. Over time, the dogs’ accuracy decreased, but they were still generally successful at mimicking the action.

Form Better Habits to Avoid Hitting Your Dog

Do dogs remember you hitting them?

You might have felt the need to strike your dog at one point in order to stop them from hurting themselves, someone else, or another dog. You would be naive to believe that a mild “down Fido” would help, for instance, if your dog were to accidentally attack another dog or even a person.

The dog probably has no idea why you did what you did, but unless you went overboard, they probably won’t even remember the incident.

This circumstance also demonstrates the significance of maintaining control over your dog. In order to maintain control over your dog, you must be firm and composed; otherwise, the dog might establish itself as the dominant force. Learn to be assertive while maintaining a calm demeanor by speaking in a deep, unsettling voice.

If necessary, you can discipline with a brief, light tap to express your disapproval. If you’ve taken the time to get to know your dog, you won’t need to do anything more than express your disapproval.

Make sure to read our article, “I Hit My Dog Out of Anger: Where Do I Go From Here?” for more information on this.

When training a dog, positive reinforcement is far superior to negative punishment because it rewards good behavior. How Long Does It Take for a Puppy to Learn “No?” is a related article that you can read for more information.

What Can You Do To Avoid Hitting Out of Anger?

No dog ever deserves to be hit for any reason. Live by that advice every day. If you have anger issues and tend to lash out, you need to find other ways to vent your anger so your dog does not have to experience an undeserved punishment.

Do dogs remember you hitting them?


Do dogs forgive when you hit them?

While a dog won’t hold it against you if you hit him, if the pattern of hitting is repeated, the situation changes. A dog can travel through time and remember specific occasions and locations as well as the feelings associated with them, according to Current Biology.

Do dogs remember being beaten?

While they might occasionally forget it due to their short-term memory deficit, persistent physical abuse will stay in their long-term memory and eventually cause issues with aggression or anxiety.

Do dogs care if you hit them?

By hitting dogs, you run the risk of making them feel insecure in addition to possibly provoking defensive aggression. They might be timid, urinate submissively, and have low self-esteem. Instead of walking with their heads held high, they may choose to do so in the future and instead walk with their tails between their legs.