3 min read


Do Dogs Remember Their Parents?



3 min read


Do Dogs Remember Their Parents?


We as humans seem to tie some of our identities to where and who we came from. So, knowing who your parents are can be a really big deal, but what if you didn't remember them at all? Would it bother you? 

This question has arisen about dogs. Can your pup remember his mom and dad? The evidence is interesting.


Signs Your Dog Might Recognize Their Mother

If you take your dog to meet one of their family members and your pup does happen to recognize the other dog, no one is exactly sure how they will react, as the research is a bit hazy. However, they will probably start out with the most basic thing - sniffing the other dog. 

If they recognize the other dog, they might wag their tail, lick him or her, put their ears up, or even jump up. It could be a very happy and very exciting reunion. Since dogs are historically pack animals, it would make sense that a dog would remember their family even after many years of not seeing their mom or dad.

If your dog does not recognize another dog, they’ll still probably start out by sniffing them, but they probably won’t get as excited. They might lose interest in the other dog, or if they feel threatened, they might act out. 

As mentioned, every dog reacts differently. So, it’s important to keep an eye your dog and make sure they are comfortable. If they do not recognize the other dog, they may not react in the best way. If your dog starts to growl, bark, or they start lunging at another dog, you need to be careful. An agitated or uncomfortable pup needs to be removed from the situation as quickly as possible. This is for their safety and the safety of the other dog.

Body Language

Here are some signs you might notice if your dog recognizes another dog:

  • Jumping Up
  • Wag Tail
  • Sniffing
  • Licking
  • Ears Up

Other Signs

Here are some more signs you might notice if your dog is intimidated by another dog:

  • Agitated Behavior
  • Low Growling
  • Lunging

History of Dogs and Their Family Connections


Historically, we believe that dogs have descended from wolves. Wolves are pack animals, and as mentioned, many breeds of dogs still enjoy spending time with a “pack” of friends. So, it wouldn’t be surprising if your pup remembers their family and the hierarchy behind it.  

It’s also interesting to note that there is a plethora of cute stories and videos on the internet about pups and their bonds with other dogs. They don’t even have to be related to have a strong bond with another pup! These pairs don’t like to be seperated, and often, if they are being adopted out, need to stay together. This shows dogs remember others and are capable of forming deeper bonds. 

Taking it a step further, some dogs even bond with animals of other species. Bonding between animals is not just something that is reserved for dogs, too. Many animals have close familial relationships or friendships with others - much like the ones humans develop.

Science Behind Dogs and Their Familial Relationships


Scientifically, there has been a little research done on this topic, and the results are already impressive. According to Psychology Today, pups probably can tell who their mother is. Researchers conducted an experiment where they had the mother and another dog (of the same breed) each use a different blanket. Then, the researchers put the two blankets out in front of the puppies. 

Surprisingly, 82% of the puppies went to the blanket that their mother had been using. Another experiment mentioned by Psychology Today said that the mother dogs were able to identify the items their pups had used 78% of the time. So, it's pretty convincing that a dog's powerful sense of smell is able to help them figure out who their mother is, at the very least. As for knowing who their father is, there's not much research on that, so we're still unsure.

Training Your Dog to Recognize Their Family


To train your dog to be able to identify their family is impossible. It's just something that comes along with their senses, it seems. It is important, however, to help your dog keep their senses sharp with a healthy lifestyle. 

Plenty of walks, nutritious meals, providing plenty of water, snacks in moderation, and playing with your pup can help them stay healthy. It’s also important to take your pup to the vet for regular checkups and continue to give your dog all the love and attention they need to be happy.

So, can a dog know who their parents are, even after not seeing each other for a long period of time? The research shows dogs can probably at least tell who their mother is if they see - or rather, sniff her. As for their father and siblings, our guess is, they probably can tell with their strong sense of smell, but we’re unsure from a research point of view.

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Safety Tips When Introducing Your Dog to Their Family Member:

  1. Don't assume that there will be no issues simply because the dogs are related.
  2. Introduce the dogs in a neutral area.
  3. Allow them to smell each other from some distance before the introduction.

Written by Katie Anderson

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 04/23/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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