Many guardians use familiar language to address their dogs, referring to them as their «sons and daughters» and implying that they have a very intimate relationship with their pets, comparable to that a mother has with her offspring.
We know that the type of bond that a dog establishes with a human being can be very diverse and that it is largely conditioned by the experiences that both have had together. In many cases, puppies are raised from a very young age by people. On other occasions, they join the family when they are already adults or elderly and some dogs even go through many different homes during the course of their lives, eventually having not one, but several guardians. All these situations make us wonder if dogs can really consider us their fathers and mothers or if this is impossible.
Anyone who lives or has lived with a dog knows perfectly well that dogs have memories , because they remember where they have left their toys, they learn schedules and routines, they recognize places they have visited before and they are happy when they see other dogs or people with the same memory. They have a good relationship, but how far does their ability to retain information go? Are they able to recognize their own family members?
This question already intrigued researchers in the 90s, the decade in which a study was carried out to check to what extent dogs remembered their siblings, mothers and children. The dogs participating in the experiment were separated from their mothers and littermates between eight and twelve weeks of age to be introduced, each of them, into a human family. After two years, each of the dogs was reunited with their relatives to study their behavior and it was concluded that the dogs do not show clear signs that allow us to affirm that they recognize their own siblings after so much time apart, without However, they are perfectly capable of recognizing their mothers and their mothers their children .
Mutual recognition in dogs is possible thanks to their magnificent sense of smell. During the first weeks of life, the mother creates a very intense bond with her puppies and, unconsciously, they memorize the characteristic smell of each one, also influenced by the important action of canine pheromones produced by the dog. As we know, smells are closely related to memory and emotions and it is through this means that dogs are able to recognize other individuals.
Although dogs can recognize their mothers through smell, this does not necessarily mean that they are able to understand what a «mother» is, much less that they consider someone of a species that differs from their own as such. The great cognitive development of human beings and our ability to use language mean that we can give an objective meaning and a subjective assessment to each word, so we understand what it means to be someone’s child. For their part, dogs recognize their parents simply because this gives them an adaptive advantage: if you know who your mother is you can go to her in case of danger, you ensure a source of food, you prevent inbreeding and avoid fights within the family group.
Although many guardians «humanize» their dogs and treat them like children, dogs know perfectly well that we belong to different species and for this reason, their behavior is not the same whether they are interacting with a person or with another dog. The many centuries of coexistence with humans have made dogs capable of learning the meaning of our gestures and words and communicating with us in ways that they would never use with other animals. In this sense, dogs can form a very close and lasting bond with their guardian and, of course, they can recognize him among many people, but there is no evidence that allows us to affirm that they consider a person their mother or father .
As we have explained, it is almost impossible to guarantee that your dog considers you his mother , literally, but this does not mean that he cannot feel attachment and affection towards you, far from it! Therefore, the interesting thing here is not how you know if your dog considers you his mother, because we have already seen that it is not possible, but how to know if he loves you or your relationship is positive.
A healthy bond between the dog and its guardian is key to achieving affinity and good coexistence, so here are some tips to build it:
Your dog may not consider you his mother, but if you follow these tips you will become his reference and his best support.
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