When these two dogs were unexpectedly reunited, it did more than warm our hearts. It made us wonder whether pets really can recognise their brothers and sisters. And if so, how do they do it? Well, here’s your answer...
Monty and Rosie had been happily living in separate homes for nearly a year when an unexpected trip to the park brought them back into each other’s lives. The result was enough hugs and licking to more than make up for the time apart.
Thousands of similar encounters along with some notable research papers seem to indicate that family recognition is a real thing provided one key thing happened. Puppies and kittens spent significant time with each other during the critical socialisation period between 3 and 13 weeks of age.
But how do they actually know they’re family?
Well, it’s all about two factor authentication! For starters, given pets can recognise our faces and body language often years between encounters, it’s safe to say there is some VISUAL memory of their furry family.
But the second and most powerful form of identification for pets is SCENT. With a dog’s sense of smell up to 100,000 times stronger than ours, one sniff of an approaching dog that looks mildly familiar enables a dog to trawl through his/her memory bank and find a match. Yes, in the same way a sudden waft of perfume or cologne reminds you of a former flame, smelling another pet’s pheromones (often under their tail) immediately tells them if they’re face to face with family.
And then the reunion (and ‘relo’ rumbles) can properly begin!