You’ve seen it happen—whether on the Internet or in real life with your precious pup—a dog running up to another dog who looks just like them! It often becomes part of a larger feel-good story about the dog finding its long-lost littermate.
This anecdote leads to the question… do dogs recognize their own breed?
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What Does Breed Mean?
By definition, breed refers to animals within a species having a distinctive appearance and typically having been developed by deliberate selection. If we boil it down to the basics, dog breeds refer to different types of dogs bred to perform particular tasks or look a certain way. At present, more than 400 dog breeds are recognized globally—although this number doesn’t reflect the hundreds or thousands of crossbreeds out in the world!
According to Kennel Clubs, the standards for breeds depend on the type. They suggest understanding questions such as “Where was this breed developed?” and “What breeds went into developing this breed?” to understand the differences between breeds fully.
Studies Into Whether Dogs Can Recognize Other Dogs
In 2013, Dr. Dominique Autier-Dérian from the LEEC and National Veterinary School in France conducted a study on whether dogs could pick out other dogs’ faces. Dr. Autier-Dérian discovered that regardless of what breed they were, dogs could indeed recognize their fellow canines.
First, they tested whether dogs could differentiate between species and sort faces into a category for dogs. Dr. Autier-Dérian and her team used nine domestic dogs—two of which were purebreds (a Border Collie and Labrador), while the remaining seven were mutts. The study showed pictures of different breeds and crossbreeds on a computer screen.
What is even crazier? Dogs have regional accents and can recognize them.
They also included pictures of other species of animals, including humans. Amazingly, all nine dogs grouped the images of dogs in the same category! The team concluded that dogs could, indeed, visually recognize their species.
Although research shows that dogs can recognize other dogs, there is no scientific research into whether they can differentiate between breeds. Writing on behalf of the BBC’s Science Focus magazine, Charlotte Corney said that while dogs are intelligent, they don’t pass the “mirror test.” The mirror test was created in 1970 by Gordon Gallup, Jr., which tests whether an animal understands that it’s looking at itself and not another animal.
Only a few species have passed the mirror test, excluding dogs. That means they don’t have a greater sense of awareness like a dolphin does, for example.
Professor Sophie Scott from University College London’s Neuroscience Department believes dogs have excellent social skills and are great at reading situations—perhaps even better than we are. So, even though dogs can’t recognize their breed, they still have incredible social skills that surpass that of humans.
How Dogs React When They See Another Dog?
When a dog sees another dog, they show certain behaviors, including:
- Head tilting
- Being alert
- Putting their tails up
- Putting their ears up
When your fur baby sees another dog, they may put their tail up (and wag it) or try to sniff the other dog. Dogs are generally great at socializing and therefore know how to communicate their desire to play with other dogs.
On the other hand, if your dog is naturally wary of strange things in their environment, they will show signs of caution when encountering another dog. In the case of a nervous or shy dog, it’s best to keep your dog leashed and away from other dogs—regardless of breed. Important signs to look for include changes in their posture, pacing, or even shaking.
How Do Dogs Recognize Other Dogs?
Dogs rely on their senses, including sight, smell, and hearing. While they don’t necessarily recognize different breeds, they certainly know their species. Aside from identifying fellow canines visually, each dog also has its own unique smell.
Thanks to their excellent olfactory sense, they can sniff each other to confirm whether the dog in front of them is indeed a dog! Dogs have such wonderful memories when it comes to scent that they can remember another dog they haven’t seen in years simply by smell.
How Dogs Communicate and Socialize?
It’s believed that dogs tend to enjoy the company of other dogs who share a similar level of social skills. Communication is very important to dogs, and they tend to use their faces for this.
For example, if a Husky met a Pug, the two would have difficulty communicating because of the difference in their social signals. As a result of the miscommunication, the situation could become tense. Therefore, most dogs prefer socializing with dogs that are similar to them.
How to Train Your Dog to Recognize Other Dogs?
By instinct, dogs know how to identify other dogs using their sight, smell, and even sense of hearing! So, they’re aware of other canines, whether they’re eyeing up their fellow dog, sniffing things out, or listening to familiar barks. But, as we mentioned before, communication style, socialization, and even your dog’s personality affect whether they’ll get along with other dogs.
So, how can you train your dog to recognize other dogs and be friendly, if not tolerant, toward them? It all begins with obedience. You need to establish a routine with basic commands for your dog to follow.
Once you tackle that, you can move on toward teaching your dog how to greet fellow dogs or how to react if they’re not happy about being around another dog.
Be vigilant when your dog recognizes another dog—you don’t want your pup to be in an uncomfortable situation that could escalate.
Do dogs recognize their own breed? For now, the answer is no; however, they’re smart enough to be able to discern themselves from other species. While dogs may not be able to tell the difference between breeds, they can be trained to behave well in social situations.
Additionally, dogs are brilliant, emotionally and otherwise. They have unique communication styles that allow them to find friends who socialize in a comfortable way for them.