Can Dogs Remember Siblings?

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Introduction

When you adopt a pup, you're basically adopting a new family member. This little floof of joy becomes your best friend, your sibling, your little fur-child! And most of the time, our pups don't have a lot of trouble adjusting to their new lives and families. As they grow up, they learn to love us more and more as we learn to love them! They really do become a part of our family. 

But many owners wonder, does my pupper remember his or her actual family? Most dogs are born to a litter, and many are not adopted together. So do our little munchkins remember their siblings after we've adopted them? If we saw them on the street, would they be able to recognize them? Do they actually miss them? 

While the answer to these question hasn't been fully studied or answered yet, many owners have contended that their pups actually do recognize, at least to some extent, other littermates, and react differently to them than they would any other random doggo. So, long story short, whether or not your pooch will remember their dog brother or sister depends not only on how old they were when they were separated, but their upbringing, breed, temperment, and more!

Signs Your Dog Remembers Their Brother or Sister

Whether or not your dog recognizes their sibling is all dependent on how long they spent together as little ones, their breed, and how they've grown up since they've been adopted. If by chance, you run across one of your dog's siblings, or maybe even set up a playdate reunion, you should be able to tell pretty quickly whether or not your dog remembers them. 

In regards to other dogs, depending on how social your pupper is, you'll notice certain things during a greeting. Your pup may play bow, roll over on their bellies to show submission, or have their tongue hangin' out to show excitement or happiness. Dogs that are happy to meet other dogs that are soon to be playmates will have their ears forward, and just seem pumped to meet another pooch. 

Dogs that are meeting and/or seeing their siblings again after being adopted by their fur-ever home will probably act similarly if they recognize them, but with a little bit more excitement. "While dogs don't remember people, places or things in the same way humans do, they instinctually are attracted to other dogs who share their bloodline, so there's a good chance your pup will have a positive interaction with his or her siblings." 

What you can expect to see is a lot of sniffing - even more so than you would see with a dog that isn't related. Your pup is probably just a little confused as to why they're meeting a friend that smells exactly like them! You can also expect some "smelling and licking, and possibly some rough-and-tumble play, especially if the dogs are still young enough to remember being littermates." 

Dogs who recognize their family members will just have a more extreme reaction than they normally would if they were meeting another doggo on the street. So long as you know how your pup reacts normally to other dogs, you should be able to tell the difference when they're running into or playing with their siblings!

Body Language

Some visual cues that your pup will give if they remember their sibling include:
  • Licking
  • Raise ears
  • Sniffing
  • Wag tail
  • Play bowing
  • Rolling
  • Barking
  • Alert
  • Tongue hanging

Other Signs

Other hints that your pooch remembers their brothers or sisters are:
  • Excited behavior
  • Kisses and whimpers
  • Rougher play
  • Staying close to the sibling

The Science Behind Dogs Remembering Their Siblings

Our pups have evolved from wolves, and as a result, still have some qualities and characteristics that are mirrored in their ancestors. For one thing, dogs (and wolves!) are pack animals. For the first six to ten weeks of their lives (or even more, depending on when they find their fur-ever home), most of the social interaction that they have is with their siblings, as well as their mamma. 

It's from these other doggos that pups really learn how to be a dog. These furry guys are their first pack. That's not to say that living with us doesn't also give them certain characteristics, but it stands to reason that "the longer they spend with a particular group, the more likely they are to remember the lessons they learn and individual pack members." 

Overall, while the studies are not conclusive, research has shown that "provided they are together during the critical socialization phase from week three of life through week 16", our dogs are likely to remember their siblings and parents. 

Additionally, we also have to remember that our dog's noses are far stronger than our own. In fact, "a dog's sense of smell supersedes that of humans by 10,000 to 100,000." When they smell something or someone that smells like them, they're going to be curious about what it is! Because they'll recognize their own scent, it's likely that your dog will be able to smell a similar one in their brother or sister. 

Training Your Dog to Smell Their Siblings

While there's no way to train your dog to recognize their brother or sister, there are certain things we can do as owners to facilitate a happy family reunion. For example, littermate pups that "are adopted by neighbors and see one another regularly... will adapt to the other dog (sibling) being part of their life," regardless of whether or not they recognize the familial connection. A dog that spends a lot of time with another will come to see them as a "brother" or "sister", so the more time you allow your pupper to see their blood relatives, the more comfortable they'll be around each other. 

We also need to remember that as much as we feel like they are, dogs aren't humans. Depending on how long it's been since your dog has seen their brother or sister, as well as how long they spent with them before being adopted, your dog may or may not recognize a littermate. 

And that's ok! That just means that you're all the family that your pooch needs. If you really do want your dog to have a relationship with their sibling, that just means they need to spend more time around each other. So hopefully you like your pup's brother's/sister's owner!

How To React When Your Dog is with Their Siblings:

  • Reach Out to Your Adoption Agency/Kennel: If you want to find out where your dog's siblings live, the best place to start is with where you got your pup. Most adoption agencies and kennels are required to keep records regarding where each of their pup goes, so they'll probably be the best place to start if you want to find a sibling.
  • Be Prepared: "just like any other situation where you bring together dogs who are... unfamiliar with one another, it's best to make the introduction with each dog leashed and under your control." When you're not sure how well your pupper's brother is socialized, it's always better to be safe than sorry.
  • Physical Contact: your pup is probably going to want to play with their brother or sister. Let it happen! There's definitely going to be a lot of sniffing, licking, and barking, but just make sure that it doesn't get too out of control.