4 min read


Can Dogs Identify Their Own Breed?



4 min read


Can Dogs Identify Their Own Breed?


It's no secret that dog owners feel strongly about their pets and often think they harness extra-special superpowers. Many dog lovers even swear their pooch comes to attention when they come across another dog of the same breed. Have these dog owners gone too far, or is there something to their claims? 

According to scientists and veterinarians alike, there may be some validity to these claims. Maybe. One prominent French veterinarian says that dog breeds possess the "largest morphological variety of any animal species",  meaning they are able to decipher when they are interacting with other dogs, perhaps even their own breed. 

While the jury is still out on whether a Chihuahua knows another Chihuahua when they see one, most experts stand behind the notion that dogs recognize other dogs. 

However, there have been a handful of studies that address the question at hand. In some, a dog is shown a photograph of another dog of his same breed and then observed. The bottom line? We've yet to determine if dogs can distinguish different breeds, or if they just know they are meeting another of their species.


Signs a Dog Can Identify Their Own Breed

At present moment, there are 187 dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The World Canine Organization, on the other hand, recognizes 332 breeds. These numbers do not include the thousands of mutts or cross-breeds, which means there are too many breeds to even count! With that many dogs out there, it seems nearly impossible a dog would be able to pick their own breed out, right? 

Breed is something us humans use in order to distinguish dogs from one another, and dogs likely don't use the same point of reference. However, dogs are very intuitive and great communicators - well, sometimes. Because of this, it can be easy to think that two French bulldogs are getting along so well because they recognize another dog of their breed, when in fact they are just great at socializing. 

There are certain signs that indicate a dog recognizes another dog, including sniffing, tail wagging, and keeping their tail up. These signs will, of course, differ from dog to dog, so it's important to observe your pup and look for any behavioral changes. If your dog is wary around other dogs, keep them on a leash and stay away from high-stress environments. While it may be tempting to try and get your Border Collie to befriend another Border Collie you see at the dog park, it's important you don't force the interaction. 

Body Language

Here are signs your dog recognizes another dog:

  • Alert
  • Head Tilting
  • Sniffing
  • Tail Up
  • Ears Up

Other Signs

These are other sign your dog knows another dog when they see one:

  • Very Observant And Aware
  • Hair Standing Up
  • Whining

History of Dogs Recognizing Other Dogs


Dogs are fascinating creatures that have been the subject of countless studies over the years. As we learn more about them, we've discovered that they are far smarter and more complex than previously thought. Just like humans, dogs have evolved over the years and are now our most fierce, loyal companions. 

There always seems to be a heart-warming story in the media of how a dog saved their owner or found their way back home after years of separation, which just confirms how important they are to us, humans. 

Of the many studies looking at if dogs can identify their own species, and maybe even breed, we've learned that dogs seem to have a sixth sense about who is considered a dog, and who is not. Some studies have proven that dogs can identify another dog simply through visualization, whereas others look at how dogs use smell and hearing to identify their own species. 

Science Behind Dogs Recognizing Their Own Breed


There are numerous ways dogs are able to determine if the other animal belongs to their own species, including smell, sight, and hearing. Furthermore, many dogs rely on cognitive processes such as categorization to figure out if the animal they are interacting with is indeed one of their own. One study by the highly-regarded veterinarian, Dr. Autier-Derian, found that dogs often use visual cues alone in order to pick out the faces of dogs from other animal species.

When it comes to looking at whether dogs can identify their own breed, some studies have used images of a dog's siblings and mother, along with another purebred dog of the same coloring. In these studies, many dogs seemingly were able to identify the other purebred dog of the same breed. 

This makes sense, as dogs recognize their mother. But how much does this really tell us? Are dogs able to pick out certain features and characteristics of their own breed, or is it something else? The jury is still out on this one. 

Training Your Dog to Recognize Other Dogs


When it comes to training your dog to do pretty much anything, the best place to start is with basic obedience. By establishing a routine and working with your dog right from the start to listen to certain commands, you will be setting the both of you up for a lifetime of learning. Teaching your dog to identify other dogs - or perhaps even their own breed - is a much loftier task. For one, dogs are instinctual and know through sight, smell, and hearing when they meet another dog. This is something that cannot be taught. 

However, there are certain things you can do to teach your dog how to react when they come face-to-face with another dog. Many dog owners have had success with training their dogs to say "hello" or "shake" when they meet another of their kind, but this requires a great deal of patience and determination. 

Regardless of your endgame, start by teaching your dog basic commands and rewarding their good behavior. Stick with these simple commands for a good amount of time before moving on to more complicated tricks and learned behaviors. Once your pooch is a pro at sitting, coming, fetching, or whatever else you chose to teach them, you can start introducing other tasks. 

Many studies have been successful with showing dogs pictures of other dogs and gauging their reaction. This could be a good place to start if you are wanting your dog to react a specific way when they meet another dog on the street or dog park. 

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Safety Tips for When Your Dog Sees Another Dog:

  1. Never let your dog approach another dog without checking with the other owner first.
  2. Make sure the environment is a safe one.
  3. Try to avoid any distractions.
  4. If the situation is becoming tense or elevated, remove your dog from the environment.

Written by a Chihuahua lover Allie Wall

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 04/13/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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