4 min read


Can Dogs Remember Their Moms?



4 min read


Can Dogs Remember Their Moms?


If you try to remember your earliest memory, it is likely your mom is a part of it. Maybe you were first learning how to ride a bike or building a fort with blankets. Your mom helped feed you, put you to sleep, helped you when you scraped your knee, among many other daily activities that make your mom, well, your mom. 

As your pooch zooms around the house, it may be hard not to wonder whether your sweet pup remembers his or her mom? 


Signs Your Dog Remembers a Family Member

Reuniting your pup with his or her mom may be a great way for your pup to burn off some energy and to show your dog a little lovin'. Bringing your pup back together with a parent after a few months apart should prove that they do remember one another. Your dog may exhibit signs such as sniffing around the other dog. Dogs have really strong noses, so if they happen to sniff another dog with a familiar scent, they will react much better to that dog.  

Your dog may also start jumping and acting all sorts of crazy (zoomies included). This is because your pup remembers! Your pup will likely be happy and excited to see their momma, and will wag their tail to no end to show that they are so very happy to be reunited.

Body Language

Some other signs that your dog recognizes his or her mom include:<br/>

  • Alert
  • Whining
  • Wag Tail
  • Sniffing
  • Play Bowing

Other Signs

Other signs to look for are:

  • Excited Behavior
  • Playful Behavior
  • Lots Of Licking

The History Behind Dogs Remembering Their Moms


Thinking back through time, the social hierarchy of a wolf pack is really based on family structure. The hierarchy is set up so that the mom and dad of the wolf pack hold the highest status as pack leaders. It follows that the pups must have an innate ability to recognize and remember their mother simply because, for the pack to function well, she must be obeyed. It is possible, that as descendants from wolves, domesticated dogs share that same sense of function.

It is also quite possible that other factors of DNA are at force. For instance, another innate canine response is to reproduce. With this premise lingers an implication that dogs will protect family over strangers because of the similar DNA familial lineages share. And by protecting family, dogs are protecting their own imprint on the world and continued lineage.

So it stands to reason that nature will set things up so that family is easier to recognize, whether it be by smell, sight, bark or some other biological method.

The Science Behind Dogs Remembering Their Moms


Experiments have proved that dogs are fully able to recognize their mothers based off of scent. Dogs smell each other because their scent glands give off lots of information about who each dog is, and this in turn helps dogs recognize familiar faces. Researchers believe dogs' olfactory sense help them recognize related dogs, even if they haven't seen each other for years. Although the dogs may not be cognizant of the relationship or understand why they recognize the other dog, they have an instinct to understand that the other dog is familiar.

To test this theory, researchers have experimented with dogs that were each about 2 years old. These dogs were separated from their mothers when they were around 8 weeks old. The dogs also hadn't seen their mothers again up to the time of testing. Researchers used large cloths that dogs' mothers had slept on for two days. These are called "scent cues," which help with recognition.

The results showed that when the dogs were given a choice of a cloth infused with their mother's scent versus one infused with the odor of an unfamiliar female of the same breed, 76 percent of the dogs showed a preference for the cloth infused with their mother's scent. This was notable because the pups had by now grown into adult dogs and had not seen their mothers for around two years.

It is also possible that dogs are able to recognize their moms simply by looking at their faces. Recent studies support the theory that dogs can distinguish the face of their owners from strangers and can spot dogs from among other animals. 

In 2009, researchers experimented with dogs by showing dogs sets of photos with familiar and unfamiliar dog faces. The researchers found that the dogs stared longer at the photos of the familiar dogs, suggesting dogs can understand facial cues to distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar doggos. This study might provide another explanation as to how adult dogs could recognize their mothers.

Training Your Pup to Remember


Remembering a parent is an innate ability that really relies on your pup's own memory. This means that there isn't really any way to train your dog to remember. However, you can raise your dog to be open to other furry friends. This will allow your pup to remember that other dogs are friends.

One thing you can do, however, is continue to provide your dog with cues as they grow. These cues could be a blanket that smells like mom (and doesn't get washed - so use it sparingly!), a big picture of the dog-mom's face, or regular visits with your dog's mother as the dog grows. By exposing your pooch to their mom in various ways, they are not likely to forget her!

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By Olivia Gerth

Published: 03/06/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

Wag! Specialist
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