Do Dogs Know Their Siblings?

What happens to dogs’ memories of their siblings when we adopt them? Will my dog remember them if they reunite? 

These questions might be on your mind as a new dog owner. 

Dogs recognize their siblings, but they don’t necessarily know it’s their siblings. 

Let’s take a look at what history and science say about whether dogs know their siblings or not. Find out the signs to look for that shows your dog recognizes their brother or sister. 

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Dogs know their siblings

Do Dogs Know Their Siblings?

Yes, dogs can recognize their siblings even if they have been separated at eight weeks old.

However, this depends on different factors that we will discuss below. It usually depends on how long they spent together, and if they spent critical socialization periods together early on. 

How Close Were The Siblings?

Ideally, the longer the siblings stayed with each other and the closer they were, the more likely they would recognize one another.

But littermates who never had the chance to bond may not distinguish whether the dog is a sibling or not. 

Some dogs only spent a few weeks together as puppies but still recognize each other after years because of their short but sweet relationship.

Here’s some adorable proof that dogs know and remember their siblings. Watch how Jameson the Labrador Retriever reunited with his siblings, Bumpers and Sach, after years of not seeing each other.

Did They Spend Critical Socialization Period Together?

Steven R. Lindsy stated in his book that dogs could identify their siblings and parents later on in life if they spent early critical socialization time with them. 

This period is usually at around 16 weeks old. Your dog’s siblings should be instrumental to their growth which influences their confidence-building.

These siblings should be part of your dog’s exposure to complex stimuli or enrichment. 

If they were not together during this time, they might not be able to identify each other later. 

How Strong is Your Dog’s Sense of Smell?

Dogs have a powerful sense of smell, but just how strong it is varies from one breed to another.

Several dog breeds with a stronger sense of smell are likelier to remember their siblings based on their smell. These dog breeds include:

  • Belgian Malinois
  • German Shepherds
  • Basset Hounds
  • and Bloodhounds.

Unlike humans, dogs cannot fully comprehend, “This is my sister whom I lived with a few years ago.” We will go more in-depth about this in the next section.

That said, dogs immediately associate the scent of the dog with positive experiences.

Your dog might feel safer and more comfortable once they reunite with their sibling and remember their smell. 

Dogs Cannot Tell Whether a Dog is Their Sibling

Your dog might easily recognize the face or smell of their siblings. However, it does not mean they know it is their brother or sister.

Dogs have no idea how to differentiate between a sibling and a non-sibling. They might recognize playmates in the dog park the same way they remember their long-lost brother. 

Even if a familial bond differs from proximity bond, there is a chance your dog will react the same way toward other furry friends. 

History of Dogs Recognizing Their Siblings

The most straightforward explanation behind your dog recognizing their siblings is that dogs are pack animals. In the wild, their ancestors had no one except their family, composed of their parents and siblings.

They might also develop relationships with other packs for survival to protect themselves from predators. 

Even though the main reason behind their pack behavior is survival, siblings also develop a particular type of bond that allows them to enjoy and thrive in their environment.

Siblings also develop a particular type of bond called a familial bond. This bond is strengthened when puppies can stay and socialize with their siblings and mother during the first eight weeks of birth. 

The other types of bond that dogs share are trauma-induced and proximity bonds. 

As dogs become more attached to humans they learn a deeper type of bond based on affection. Some dogs have applied this special relationship to their siblings, while others have not. 

Signs Your Dog Remembers Their Siblings

If you’re not sure whether your dog remembers their sibling or not, here are some signs that show they recognize them:

  • They sniff their siblings intently.
  • They are playful toward them immediately.
  • They groom each other. 
  • Their body language is calm and relaxed. 
  • Their tail is wagging. 

However, these signs can still be considered vague because dogs act the same way toward other dogs who are not their siblings. 

A Study About Dog Remembering Their Family

A study at the University of Belfast may prove that dogs remember their siblings and mother.

When the puppies were a few weeks old, the researchers checked whether they could differentiate between their birth mother and another dog of the same age and breed.

While not all, 84% of the puppies preferred their mother, indicating that they recognized them.

They did the same with their siblings. 67% of the puppies showed a preference for their brothers and sisters.

This does not necessarily mean dogs know their mothers or siblings. It could be because they are familiar with their face and smell. Especially when they live together.

Signs Your Dog Does Not Remember Their Sibling

Here are some telltale signs that your dog does not remember their sibling anymore:

  • They are more alert.
  • They look tense when they are around them.
  • Your dog is aggressive toward them.
  • They react the same way they meet all new dogs. 

Do Siblings Mate?

Dog siblings do sometimes mate, especially if they’re the only ones where they live. However, this does not mean that they’ve forgotten about their kinship.

Mating is simply an inevitable part of their instincts. There is no taboo in the world of canines. And they are also not aware of the potential abnormalities that may occur among their offspring.

That is why the owner is responsible for preventing sibling dogs from mating. 

Here are some risks of inbreeding in puppies:

  • reduced infertility
  • pregnancy complications
  • reduction of the gene pool
  • weakened immunity
  • genetic mutation
  • strengthening recessive genes
  • increased aggression.

How Do I Stop My Dog From Being Aggressive Toward His Siblings?

Aggression is a common behavioral problem among dogs. You can fix this issue by removing the cause of the behavior.

If your dog is aggressive because of their dominance, try establishing yourself as the pack leader. This will help them get along well and depend on your rules for their survival.

If your dogs are fighting over a toy, remove the object and give them different toys. 

You can also separate them from each other if a health condition is making your dog aggressive and uncomfortable. 

Do Dogs Know Their Gender? 

Dogs know when they are male or female, aka their biological sex. They also know their biological roles, such as mother dogs nursing their puppies. 

However, dogs have no concept of gender. Only a few studies are showing that dogs have specific learned behaviors or roles attached to their sex.

For example, female dogs tend to be more cooperative with their owners. Meanwhile, male dogs are more geared toward social play.

Find out more about dogs and their knowledge of gender

How Do Dogs Know Their Owner?

Dogs know their owners through their sense of smell, hearing, and sight. 

Your dog can recognize your voice even if hundreds of other people call their name. They can also remember your face in a sea of individuals.

But the strongest way they can recognize their owners is through their sense of smell. Dogs know a lot of information about you based on your scent alone.

Learn more about how dogs know their owner

Do Dogs Know Their Name?

Dogs know their names but not the actual words. Instead, they recognize when you’re calling them through the same patterns of sound, pitch, and tone of your voice.

Dogs also recognize their names based on the gestures you use when you’re calling them. If you call their name while clapping all the time, they are more likely to respond to you.

If you want your dog to remember their name, keep it short and simple. There’s no need to give them a second name or a name that sounds like the name of your other pets. 

Find out how your dog knows their name so you can teach them properly at the right time. 

Sibling Love is Incomparable

The answer to whether dogs remember their siblings or not isn’t clear. Many studies show that dogs have a preference toward their family, but the experience is different for everyone.

Some dogs remember their siblings because they developed a strong bond years ago. Others do not recall their siblings because they were too young when they separated.

Either way, it’s possible to help them form a strong relationship. Let them play with each other and exercise together. 

Another thing you might be curious about is whether dogs recognize their name. Find out when puppies learn their name.