Do Dogs Remember Who Their Babies Are?

Mothers recognize their babies by smell.
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While movies and books often portray heart-touching reunions between dog parents and their long-lost missing pups -- think 101 Dalmatians -- in real life, a dog’s memory of its offspring is typically limited, particularly if pups are weaned and re-homed in short order. There are, however, some instances where a familial relationship can be recognized among dogs in the same family.

Maternal Instinct

Mother dogs instinctively care for their newborn pups immediately after birth. The mother cleans her babies, feeds them and keeps them warm with her body heat. She will continue to nurse them from birth until about 5 or 6 weeks of age, at which time she’ll begin the weaning process. By 8 to 10 weeks of age, the puppies are old enough to be separated from their mother and moved into new homes. The mother will continue to recognize and care for the puppies -- even if they are removed from her presence for vet trips, socialization and introduction to solid foods -- during these early stages of development.

Adult Babies

Pups that grow to adulthood in the same home as their parents will continue to be recognized by their mother and father, but not necessarily in a parent-offspring way. Regardless of bloodlines, dogs who live in the same home recognize each another as members of their pack. Dogs who live in multiple-pet households sort out dominance issues between themselves, and in some cases, a grown baby may assume a dominant role over a parent after reaching full maturity.

Family Connections

Dogs are able to recognize family relationships, even if only on a very base level. For example if a dog is put in close proximity to several other dogs, including a litter mate or parent he hasn’t seen in some time, he’ll still be drawn to the blood relatives over the dogs with whom there is no preexisting relationship. This doesn’t mean, however, that dog parents necessarily have a particular bond with their adult babies the way human beings do.


Some pet owners plan family reunions of canine parents and their pups with the idea that they’ll recognize one another and have a joyous and loving reunion. If all of the dogs were well-socialized, they may very well get along together, but that also doesn’t preclude them from being aggressive or even mating. Unaltered dogs who reach sexual maturity will seek out other dogs of sexual maturity, and bloodlines won’t matter.