Can dogs tell after a long period of time which dog is their sibling even after being apart for years?

Via smell alone?

I ask because I noticed some time ago how my friends’ Bull Terrier Meg would behave oddly (for her anyway) at times by the back gate of the garden. Meg would sniff high into the air, lifting a paw up, crying and whining, sniffing avidly under the gate, pawing the gate and looking and sniffing over the wall to the adjoining driveway where my car was parked.

After a couple of non eventful visits she did it again. It took a few weeks for me to suss out the difference on the days when she acted strangely; my dogs were in the car on the days she cried and sniffed. More specifically, her sister, my sweet Jellybean was in the car. They hadn’t seen each other in 3 years. And the windows were not open in the car either.

The next visit with them in the car I took her into Meg’s garden. She was greeted happily by the other Bull Terriers in residence, her mum Ruby and Harvey. The girls seemed to behave as I would expect dogs to greet each other, excited and enthusiastic. Harvey was a little too interested in showing her his admiration so I popped her back in the car. It was the fastest I have ever seen horizontal Harvey move but I couldn’t allow that!!

My suspicions were confirmed each time I went with or without the dogs. Even different dogs did not provoke the same reaction when they were in my car, even years later. After Jellybean passed away recently it was a couple of weeks before I could bring myself to put them in the car and take them to work. I knew Meg would not react the same. I was right, even though I left the windows open Meg did not seem to be aware her friends were in the car. I knew Jellybean really had gone and that Meg had some connection to her sister, on a hormonal level, one I would doubtfully ever fully understand.

  1. #1 by Julia on June 8, 2011 - 11:23 pm

    Amazing! That’s wonderfully heartwarming that she could tell when the car was occupied by dogs she knew vs ones she didn’t. Great post.

  2. #2 by Katie Scott-Dyer on June 16, 2011 - 4:46 pm

    Thanks Julia, your support is so important to me. I found this behaviour fascinating and have begun research into this part of their cognitive behaviours, it may form part of my thesis when I return to education!

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