Do Dogs Remember Who Its Mother Is? (and vice versa) – Based on Science

Most puppies don’t live with their mothers for long. They are usually separated at about three months of age. But do puppies remember their mother and the mother of their puppies after separation?

Dogs can develop a mother-daughter bond early on because puppies are usually very dependent on their mothers for food and safety. Thanks to this bond, dogs remember their mother through scent. Research shows that dogs can remember their parents for up to two years after separation.

Here are brief findings based on all the research and studies on dogs’ ability to remember their mother, child, and siblings.

divider dog paw

Do Dogs Remember Their Mothers?

Humans understand that there is no love like a mother-daughter bond, the reason being that every May, young and old alike, people pause to remember and honor their mother. But what about the bond between a mother dog and her puppies?

Dogs are social animals and follow a pack hierarchy. These creatures do not socialize, perceive, or memorize events in their lives as humans, so their concept of memory is much different from that of humans.

Some dogs remember their parents, especially their mothers, but some don’t.

Dog noses have nearly 300 million olfactory cues compared to humans’ only 6 million. This means that a puppy’s ability to distinguish different scents is almost 40% greater than that of a human.

Puppies can smell their mother early before they separate and can use it to recognize their parents when they meet.

These animals also have associative memories of repeated events. Nevertheless, it helps them remember their favorite things, which means that short time together gives the mother dog and puppies memories.

Puppies and their mothers retain information about each other for almost two years. So it makes sense that if dogs can recognize their mother, they can remember her too.

mother dog and puppy playing

Will the Dog Always Remember His Mother?

Since dogs can recognize and remember their mother after being separated for two years, will they remember her long after that?

Well, a dog is able to carry the memories of its mother from infancy to adulthood. It does so by recognizing certain scents.

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If you give an adult dog a cloth with his mother’s scent on it, he will spend more time sniffing a certain cloth than a random one. Again, this was because something about the cloth felt familiar to him.

Does Mother Dog Remember Her Puppy?

Humans may have limited the freedom of domesticated dogs, but nature has provided a means for mother dogs to recognize their puppies.

A bitch (a female dog) can recognize her offspring after many years, and that has nothing to do with memory.

Pet puppies rarely get the chance to live with their pup during their stray years, so their relationship may not be that deep. Plus, dogs’ long-term memory isn’t as well-developed as it is in humans.

But thanks to a biochemical process known as imprinting, dogs can form a mother-puppies bond. An important player in this relationship is the “love hormone” known as oxytocin.

Printing makes smell and appearance a psychological trigger for dogs. This increases the sense of intimacy between the bitch and her offspring long after the maternal instinct has worn off.

The more intense the positive formative experience (especially the critical first two months in their life), the stronger the imprint, and so will the bond.

jack russell licking his puppy

What Prevents the Mother-Puppies Bond

The answer to a mother dog’s ability to remember her puppies largely depends on how long and precisely the period of formation with her puppies was. If they had been together for up to four months, they would most likely form a lasting bond. However, dogs also have dysfunctional families that can be traced back to their formative years.

A dog’s ability to bond may be impaired if a puppy is weaned from its mother too soon. Or if they experience a chaotic environment during a sensitive formative period.

Bonding isn’t always the same for dogs who have had bad experiences and faced severe conditions during the formation stage. Don’t ask if a mother and her children will remember each other in the future because trauma disrupts their bond.

Frequent interruptions early in their life will hinder complete imprinting. This is because trauma encountered during a dog’s early life leads to aggressive and antisocial behavior later in life. That’s why mother dogs are known to kill their offspring under quite harsh conditions such as starvation and predators.

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Signs a Dog Remembers His Mother

Family reunions are not the typical hugs and greetings between dogs. They don’t squeal or jump when they greet each other happily, but there are ways to show that they are happy.

1. Relaxed posture

arrogantly licking his puppy

Observe if your dog looks relaxed when in front of its mother. It will show signs of co-occurring such as a low tail, erect ears, and a slightly open mouth with a hanging tongue.

You may notice the puppy approaching another dog with a vigilance that feels like he is checking something. An alert puppy will display a straight horizontal tail with ears pointing forward, eyes wide, and mouth closed. These signs indicate that the dog is easygoing, peaceful, and very approachable.

2. Playing Bend

A playing dog bends over to a play position to invite others to play. You may see the hind legs up while the front legs stay down as if bent.

They bend down so fast before jumping, running, and playing. Such a dog will guard its tail and wave it enthusiastically as if inviting. Their mouths usually remain open with the tongue hanging down.

3. Attitude


Pay attention to your dog’s attitude when approaching certain puppies. For example, you may notice when he bows to a dominant dog.

Dominant puppies will adopt gestures that show they are alert, such as leaning forward and standing upright on their toes with their feet still stiff. This will leave the tail out and straight, with the ears pointing forward and the lips curved.

Another dog will adopt a submissive posture when greeting the dominant dog by turning it on its back and showing its belly. Obedient puppies will tuck their tails. The ears will be flat and point back while the mouth and eyes remain closed. This suggests that this is a happy reunion, and the two may be starting to play.

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Will a male dog mate with its mother?

Don’t assume that the mother dog and puppies won’t mate because they can recognize each other. Although the thought of a mother dog mating with her son is terrifying, the two can mate and even become pregnant.

However, the fact that sons may mate with their mothers during their reunion should not be taken as evidence that they failed to recognize each other.

They may be aware of their family ties, only that dogs do not exhibit the same moral system that humans have. The concept of incest is offensive to humans but foreign to dogs.

A dog may recognize its mother, but they will still mate because the reunion does not raise any taboos. Therefore, no thought can stop him from continuing his pursuit of lust.

What remains is the romantic relationship between the mother dog and her son will produce offspring with health problems. In addition, dogs should not be bred with children or siblings to prevent problems such as birth defects.



When a mother dog meets her offspring after years of separation, you now know that they will recognize each other. They will use their sense of smell to remember each other.

And if you see them mating, know that dogs are still animals and have no morality like humans. Therefore, incest, taboos, and social moral restrictions do not apply to them.

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Featured Image Credit: Zuzule, Shutterstock