Dog mothers recognize their offspring by their whining – and react particularly to the noises of the little ones. This is what a French research team reports in the “Proceedings” of the US National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers led by Mathilde Massenet from the French University of Saint-Etienne analyzed 4,400 recordings of 220 whining beagle puppies from 40 litters. The recordings were made in four breeding stations in France.

The researchers then used small loudspeakers to play the whines of their offspring and other beagle puppies to 16 female dogs. The mothers reacted more strongly to the sounds of their own puppies, which was expressed, among other things, in more care and feeding. Some dog moms even dragged the speakers into their baskets with the other puppies.

In their own offspring, the mothers also reacted more strongly to high tones. These are more likely to be produced by smaller puppies. Massenet’s group concludes that their whining motivates dogs to be particularly caring.