6 min read

Do Dogs Recognize Dogs Of The Same Breed?

"Every owner I know swears their dog recognizes all other Frenchies, bull terriers, Chihuahuas."

Ever notice your German shepherd spends a lot of time with the other German shepherd at the dog park? Or that pugs tend to sniff out other pugs?

If it all makes you wonder if a dog knows a member of his own breed when she sees one, you wouldn't be alone.

"I will tell you that every owner of a purebred dog I know swears their dog recognizes all other Frenchies, bull terriers, Chihuahuas ... " Terri Bright, director of behavior services at MSPCA-Angell, tells The Dodo. "I haven't ever seen any research on this, and I don't think it's true."

Indeed, like much of what we imagine goes on in our dog's minds, the idea that they can recognize their own breed is mostly fiction.

Mostly.

Dogs can recognize other dogs, as opposed to cats and bears and other species.

"There have been studies where a dog can pick out a dog in a photograph," Jill Sackman, senior medical director at BluePearl Veterinary Partners, tells The Dodo. "They know a dog is a dog is a dog and they can identify their own species."

But breed?

"Basically, when two dogs of the same breed meet, the people tend to conclude that they recognize each other, no matter what the dogs are doing," Bright says. "We just don't know if that's really the case."

Let's face it, breed is a pretty human distinction. And, a lot of times, humans can't even tell a what breed a dog is. What dogs may recognize in others dogs, however, is their communication savvy.

Some dogs are just better at it than others - which may make it seem like two border collies are hitting it off because they're borders collies - when, in fact, they're just really good at socializing. Or at least on the same socialization level.

For a dog, the ability to communicate is the most important life skill. Much of that ability - especially being able to read from another dog - is in the face.

The trouble is, few species have as much diversity, especially when it comes to faces, as dogs. There are flat, wide faces, and long Doberman faces. And, well, pugs.

Sackman suggests some breeds, like the Cavalier King Charles spaniel, may not have as many social signals at his disposal - the breed's small face is prized for being flat and puppy-like, but unable to convey as many social signals as the more wolf-like husky or German shepherd, whose elongated faces have plenty of room for emotion.

"You have the Cavalier who has no way of reading or communicating to the husky and the husky is like, what is wrong with you?" Sackman says.

And that's where misunderstandings, and sometimes conflict, arise.

But on the other hand, when a couple of German shepherds meet in the park, they have a lot more social signals at their disposal - and as such, it might seem like they recognize each other based on breed.

"If there is anything to it at all, I think it's more likely that dogs with better dog-dog socialization skills may look as though they are 'recognizing each other' because they are behaving in a friendly manner," Bright explains.

It's much more likely that they're just having a good conversation because they can.