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Do Dogs Remember Their Siblings? Exploring the Science Behind Canine Memory - PawSafe

Do Dogs Remember Their Siblings? Exploring the Science Behind Canine Memory

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

do dogs remember their siblings

Dogs are social animals that often form close bonds with other dogs, including their siblings. Many dog owners wonder whether dogs remember their siblings after being separated at birth or early in life. 

At first glance, it might seem like a simple yes or no question, but the world of dog recognition is far more complex than it appears. After all, dogs don’t remember things in the same way humans do, making their ability to remember specific individuals particularly intriguing.

 This article explores the role of early socialization, scent recognition, and the importance of frequent interactions in the lives of dogs to determine sibling recall. Through scientific research and heartwarming anecdotes, we’ll uncover the mysteries of dogs remember their siblings. 

One study showed that a dog has long-term memory about a person or animal based on how much time and past experience they’ve had. So, the question of whether dogs remember their siblings is more complex, particularly if they spent a limited amount of time together.

Our linked article already observed that mothers recognize their litters and vice versa for 2 years, give or take. Additionally, a separate article found that dog fathers don’t really recognize their litters as their own offspring. So, what’s left is sibling dynamics in dogs.

It’s possible that the scent of their siblings may be imprinted in their minds since puppies spend the first eight weeks of their lives with their littermates. However, relationships between canine siblings, just like humans, can be complicated. 

Some dog siblings may be competitive or even bully smaller ones, so if a dog does remember their sibling from their litter, they may not always have a positive association with that sibling. Additionally, sibling dynamics present unique challenges when raising same-litter dogs, as presented in our littermate syndrome article. 

Overall, it’s difficult to say for certain if dogs remember their siblings, but it’s heartwarming to see the joy that some reunited siblings experience when they meet again. Just check out this Golden Sibling reunion:

Canine Memory and Recognition

two young Bulldog sibling puppies playing: will they remember each other later in life?

Dogs are known for their excellent memory and recognition skills. They can remember people, places, and events that occurred in their past. But can they remember their siblings?

We have heard soul-stirring stories of dogs walking the ends of the earth (both literally and metaphorically) to reunite with their owners. 

There’s the moving story of Japanese Hachiko, who waited for his deceased owner for nine years and had a statue put up in his honor. Or Bobbie, the wonder dog who walked for more than six months and more than 2800 miles to find his long-lost family. 

Even everyday stories of rescued dogs reuniting with their owners years, even decades after getting lost, are a testament to a dog’s undying memory of their beloved humans. So, a dog’s recall is not up for debate; only whether it applies to siblings is.

In one study, researchers found that scent facilitated kin recognition in dogs. Therefore, dogs who were raised together recognized each other’s scents and were more likely to interact and play with each other. However, dogs who were not raised together but had met before still showed signs of recognition and were more likely to approach each other than unfamiliar dogs.

It’s important to note that while dogs have the ability to remember their siblings and other familiar dogs, their memory is not infallible. Factors such as age, time elapsed since their last meeting, and changes in appearance or scent can all affect a dog’s ability to recognize another dog.

Sibling Relationships in Dogs

Three German Short haired sibling puppies playing together

When it comes to dogs, sibling relationships can be quite complex. While some dogs may remember and recognize their siblings, others may not show any signs of recognition.

Research has shown that dogs have a keen sense of smell, and they use this sense to recognize familiar scents. This means that if siblings have spent a lot of time together, they may recognize each other’s scent and show signs of familiarity. However, even if they do not recognize each other’s scent, they may still form a bond based on their shared experiences as puppies.

It’s important to note that not all dogs have positive relationships with their siblings. Just like humans, dogs can have rivalries and conflicts with their siblings.

Additionally, dogs of the same litter or same-age dogs brought into a family around the same puppy can develop an unhealthy dependency on each other, known as littermate syndrome. This is why responsible breeders never allow people to buy puppies from the same litter or two puppies at around the same time.

Factors Affecting Canine Recognition

When it comes to recognizing their siblings, dogs are influenced by various factors. These include:

  • Familiarity: Dogs that have spent more time together are more likely to recognize each other. This is because they have had more opportunities to interact and form a bond. This is the most important factor determining whether dogs recognize each other.
  • Age: Puppies are more likely to recognize their littermates than adult dogs. This is because they spend more time together during their formative weeks, which helps them develop a stronger bond. Additionally, less time has passed, so the memories of the sibling are still fresh in a younger dog’s memory compared to an older one.
  • Socialization: Dogs that are well socialized are more likely to recognize and get along with their siblings. Socialization helps dogs develop better social skills and learn how to interact with other dogs.
  • Scent: Dogs have an exceptional sense of smell, and scent is a primary way they recognize each other. They can distinguish the unique odor of each individual dog, which includes pheromones and other scent markers. This recognition is especially strong among littermates and dogs from the same household.
  • Individual Differences: It’s important to remember that individual dogs vary in their recognition abilities. Some dogs may be more socially oriented and excel at recognizing other dogs, while others may be more reserved or selective in their interactions.

Overall, while dogs may have a natural inclination to recognize their siblings, there are many factors that can influence their ability to do so. By understanding these factors, we can better understand how dogs recognize and interact with each other.

Scientific Studies on Canine Recognition

The main study surrounding canine sibling recognition is titled Long-term Retention of kinship Recognition Established during Infancy in the Domestic Dog. 

In this study, researchers discovered four key themes, namely:

  • Dogs begin to recognize their siblings at 4 to 5.5 weeks old, mostly through olfactory(smell) cues 
  • Mothers could recognize puppies and puppies their mothers even after approximately 2 years apart 
  • The mechanisms dogs use to recognize mothers and siblings are different
  • Most importantly, dogs remember their other siblings mostly if they have lived with one of the siblings. However, dogs living on their own did not recognize siblings.

This means that a dog already living with a sibling is more likely to recognize the other siblings. Additional studies include:

Scent-Mediated Recognition

A study of 8 purebred dogs separated from their mothers showed that they reacted to their mother’s scent more than a random female of the same breed. This shows that scent plays a huge role in dogs recognizing kin. The impact of scent can be extended to littermates.

Long-Term Memory in Dogs

Research has also shown that dogs have long-term memory and can remember their littermates even after years of separation. In one study, dogs were able to recognize their family after being apart for up to two years. This suggests that dogs have a strong memory for familiar scents and sounds.

Puppyhood Experiences

Dogs who spend more time with their littermates are more likely to recognize them later in life. This is because they learn to recognize their siblings through experiences,  scent, sound, and body language. Puppies who are separated from their littermates too early may have difficulty recognizing them later on.

However, it is also possible that dogs simply display similar behaviors towards other dogs that they are familiar with, regardless of whether they are siblings or not. Further research is needed to fully understand the extent to which dogs remember their siblings.

Practical Implications for Dog Owners

two Boxer siblings with a ball

When it comes to reuniting siblings, it’s important to introduce them gradually and carefully. Dogs can sometimes react aggressively towards unfamiliar dogs, even if they are related. It’s best to introduce them in a neutral location and monitor their behavior closely.

If you are considering adopting a dog and already have a dog from the same litter, it’s important to consider the potential challenges. While dogs may recognize their siblings, they may not necessarily get along with them. 

Introducing unfamiliar siblings can also be challenging. Dogs may not recognize their siblings if they have been separated for a long time and may react aggressively towards them. It’s important to introduce them gradually and carefully and to monitor their behavior closely.

Frequently Asked Question (FAQs)

Do dogs remember their puppies?

Yes, dogs are able to remember their puppies. In fact, research shows that dogs have excellent long-term memory and are able to recognize their offspring even after long periods of separation.

Will my dog remember his sister?

It is possible that your dog will remember his sister, especially if they spent a lot of time together during their early development. However, this can vary depending on the individual dog and their specific experiences.

Do dogs remember each other after years?

Yes, dogs are often able to remember other dogs that they have met, even after years have passed. This is particularly true if they had a strong bond or spent a lot of time together.

Do dogs miss their dog siblings?

Dogs may experience a range of emotions when separated from their siblings, including missing them. However, the extent to which dogs experience emotions like missing or longing for their siblings is not yet fully understood and depends on how much time they spent together as puppies.

Do dog siblings get along?

Dog siblings may or may not get along, depending on a variety of factors such as their personalities, experiences, and socialization. Just like with human siblings, there is no guarantee that dog siblings will always get along.

How long do dogs remember other dogs?

Dogs have been shown to have excellent long-term memory and are often able to remember other dogs for years. However, the exact length of time that a dog is able to remember another dog can vary depending on the individual dog and their experiences.

Final Thoughts

After researching and analyzing various studies and anecdotes, we can say that dogs may remember their siblings to some extent. While there is no conclusive evidence that dogs have the ability to recognize their siblings, there are many stories of dogs displaying behaviors that suggest they remember their littermates.

It is important to note that dogs have a strong sense of smell, and they may recognize their siblings through scent. Additionally, dogs are social animals and form strong bonds with their littermates during their early development. These bonds may persist to some degree throughout their lives.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.