Do Dogs Know They are Related?

Do Dogs Know They are Related?

Author WDF Staff


If you got your dog from a breeder, chances are your dog is not the only one in their litter. Many dog owners wondered if their dog would recognize their parents, siblings, or breeder in later stages of their dog’s life. While some dog experts and behaviorists say no, some researchers say your dog will remember them. If you ever asked yourself the question, “Do dogs know they are related?” you might be happy to hear the answer is - yes, but only under the condition they spent the first 16 weeks with them.

How can dogs recognize siblings?

Humans are usually brought up alongside their siblings under the same roof, but dogs have a different upbringing. They spend their first weeks in the breeder’s home next to their mothers and littermates. The earliest a responsible breeder will allow a puppy to leave their house is 8 weeks, so some memories and scents will stay with the puppy. Here are some reasons dogs might recognize their siblings and know they are related;


A theory says all animals are “wired” to passing the healthiest possible DNA to the next generations. Since dog relatives share DNA, it is possible that DNA imprinting will prevent dogs from mating with their siblings. This is an interesting theory that might be put to the test, especially since there is a significant amount of inbreeding involved in creating new dog breeds. Even existing dog breeds had a decent amount of inbreeding in their past.

sharpei family

This theory also suggests that dogs might feel some sort of a connection between siblings that will be offputting when it comes to breeding. It is hard to imagine they can recognize and understand another dog is their sibling, but it is possible they feel something. We are not the biggest fans of this theory, but it is out there, and scientists say it is a possibility.


The second theory says that dogs can recognize their sibling’s scent later in life. We find this theory a lot more plausible, and we have witnessed it actually a couple of times. This theory says that puppies remember the scent in the first 16 weeks, and that scent will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

We can personally tell you that this actually happens. Our dog was taken for a meetup with the breeder and her mother, which she had no problems recognizing and recollecting. She was very happy to see them and started immediately playing and greeting them both. It was a surprise to see she remembers them after more than a year of not being in contact.

husky family

Recognizing other dogs

One interesting thing that happens is that dogs can recognize their childhoodfriends.” Dogs that spent a significant time socializing together can recognize each other after they were separated. There is clear evidence of that happening, especially in disaster-stricken areas where dogs were separated from their owners and other dogs in their households. Dogs recognized other dogs without any problem, even after a few years of being separated.

This supports the theory that dogs remember scents and other humans and dogs. Their reaction was clear and decisive, and the happiness they exhibited can make you cry. However, this also means dogs will recognize other dogs that play a significant role in their life. That only means that dogs that grew up or lived together have a stronger bond than dogs that are related and come from the same litter.

groenendael father and son

In conclusion

While these theories might seem plausible, some find them implausible and think dogs cannot recognize their siblings or understand they are related to other dogs. Some researchers believe dog owners often give their dogs human character traits, which would mean we might give meaning to things that have little or no sense at all. That is also true, but the answer to the question, “Do dogs know they are related?” remains inconclusive. We will need more proof that will completely confirm or deny these theories.

World Dog Finder team

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