Puppies Usually Remember Their Moms, But Not Always

Although it is hard to know for sure, there is evidence that puppies remember their moms after separation and vice versa.

However, the evidence is mixed, with the possibility that their memories of each other depends on other factors, such as their personalities and experiences they had together.

Many individuals are under the belief that puppies and dogs do not remember their mothers after being separated from them. For example, male dogs will mate with their mothers.

However, some people don’t realize that this does not mean that the dog does not recognize his mother. It simply means that dogs do not operate by the same code of morality that humans do.

There are many implications that people should recognize about whether or not puppies remember their moms.


Puppies Do Recognize Their Moms

There is evidence that puppies and dogs recognize their mothers later in life. There were studies done in Northern Ireland, at the School of Psychology at the Queen’s University of Belfast, on recognition between canine family members.

In one study, mothers of puppies were placed in wire enclosures when the puppies were four or five weeks old. The puppies had been separated from their mothers.

When the puppies were put into the room, they recognized and found their mothers about 84 percent of the time.

There was also a related study where the puppies were exposed to towels. Some of the towels had their mother’s scent, and others had the scent of another female dog who was approximately the same age as their mother.

Again, 84 percent of the time, the puppies preferred the towel that had the scent of their own mothers.

The scientists interpreted these preferences of the puppies as actually having memories of their mothers. The experiments were actually repeated with slightly older dogs, who have been separated from their mothers for a period of two years.

Even in these older dogs, the memories of the mother were apparently still there, since these dogs still preferred the towel with a sense of their own mothers about 76 percent of the time.

All of these studies do indicate that puppies and dogs will remember their mothers even after having been separated for a substantial period of time.


Puppies Also Recognize Other Family Members

Another experiment within the set put puppies with other puppies from the same litter in one of the enclosures. It also put unrelated puppies of the same age, breed, and gender in another enclosure. Sixty-seven percent of the time, the puppies preferred their own siblings.

Additionally, when puppies had a choice between a cloth infused with the scents of their siblings and one that had been infused with the scent of an unrelated dog of a similar breed and age, 70 percent of the puppies displayed a clear preference for their own littermates.

Not only do puppies recognize the scent of their own mothers, but mothers recognize the scent of their puppies, even after years of separation.

When a group of canine mothers was exposed to a cloth infused with the scent of her own offspring and another one that was infused with the sense of an unrelated dog of the same age, gender, and breed, 78 percent of the mothers showed a preference for the cloth that smelled like their own offspring.

Puppies and dogs are very reliant on their sense of smell. It is the scent cues that are very important when puppies are recognizing which dogs they are related to.


Puppies’ Relationships with Their Mothers Says a Lot About Their Socialization

The socialization of dogs has important implications for how happy the dogs are and how well they will get along with other animals.

Usually, well-socialized dogs have been socialized since puppyhood. The socialization of a puppy begins with the puppy’s mom and littermates.

In terms of social development, the neonatal period is probably the most important for a puppy. This lasts for approximately two weeks.

Usually, puppies will be weaned from their moms when they are six to nine weeks old. After this, the social development will continue through interactions with other littermates.

For proper socialization, puppies should stay with their littermates until they are about 12 weeks old. This is how they will learn how to behave properly around other dogs and other animals.

Puppies rolling around together, nipping each other, and playing together is all instrumental in the dog learning how to behave with other dogs.

This is how they learn how to approach and interact with other animals. They also learn about social rank and appropriate behaviors in these first weeks of life.

The development of the puppy’s senses is also important in these early weeks of life. When the puppy is born, they will have the senses of touch and taste. When they are two to four weeks old, they will start to develop the senses of sight, hearing, and smell.

Socialization is a very big part of the first three to 12 weeks of the puppy’s life. At first, this entails learning how to explore and play. Then, involves learning physical coordination and the housebreaking process.

Puppies do not have a whole lot of time with their mothers when you consider how long their lives are. However, the early sensory experiences that they have are very important to the dogs’ socialization and learning processes.    


Puppies Miss Their Moms and Siblings After Separation

If you’ve ever wondered if puppies miss their moms and littermates when separated from them, the answer is yes. If you have ever taken a new puppy home, you know that they will cry a lot on the first night because they miss their family and home.

Some people might be alarmed by this, but it is actually perfectly normal. The puppies are in an unfamiliar place and away from all of the smells that once comforted them. They don’t have their mother’s warmth, and they are acclimating to a new family.

You might wonder when you should be separating puppies from their mothers. The ideal age for this is about eight weeks old. Before this, the puppies are still undergoing socialization and learning from their mothers and littermates.

If puppies are separated from their moms before they reach eight weeks of age, they tend to be less sociable and more nervous, sometimes throughout their entire lives.

A lot of the time, the longer they can stay with their moms and their littermates, the better. However, this does not mean that they have to stay with them for abnormally long periods to be happy.

Dogs do not really need to be with their moms until they are young adults, like humans often do. Animals can typically separate from their parents when they are able to take care of themselves. Dogs are typically at this point when they are about eight weeks old. At this point, they can move independently, eat, and control their sphincters.


However, The Evidence Is Mixed

Even though studies have shown that puppies have preferences for other dogs that are biologically related to them, including their moms, the evidence is somewhat mixed.

Some will say that their ability to recognize one another may depend on several factors, such as how long they have been separated from one another.

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Additionally, it depends somewhat on the personality of the dog. According to Galit Reuben, executive director of Dogs Without Borders, “If she’s a happy dog who likes to meet other dogs, she will respond positively. If she’s shy and not socialized, she will react accordingly.”

In some cases, the recognition after a long period of separation depends on the environmental conditions when the mother and puppy were together and the strength of their bond before they were separated.

In addition, how much the puppy has changed since the time with the mother can influence the chance that recognition will occur.

When it comes to how long dogs can remember their moms, studies still need to be done to see just how long-term the memory really is.

Puppies can remember their moms, but no one really knows if older dogs, such as middle-aged and senior dogs, would be able to remember their moms. As of yet, these types of studies have only really been done on younger dogs.

However, one would guess that the chances are somewhat high. There is anecdotal evidence that dogs can remember former owners, even if they have not been around them for a few years.


Fond Memories of Puppies…

It can be hard to tell what puppies and dogs are thinking. After all, it is not as if they can speak to you and tell you what’s on their mind.

This is why it can be somewhat difficult to figure out whether or not puppies can remember their mom. However, the evidence points to at least some ability in this area. Not only can puppies remember their moms, but moms can apparently remember their puppies as well.

It is always good to get as much insight as possible into how dogs and puppies think. This way, we can learn more about their socialization and how to improve their quality of life for as long as we are lucky enough to have them.


Writer: Nilani Thiyagarajah

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