I held my dog in front of a mirror several times yesterday, and yet again he doesn’t seem to recognise himself at all. Why? Dogs are intelligent and adaptable, but according to Liz Stelow of the University of California, they lack the cognitive development to recognise themselves visually. So they don’t recognise themselves in a mirror, photo or video.
Researchers can test if animals can observe themselves in a mirror by painting red dots on the animals face. If the animal starts to touch their face then we know that they self-recognise. Animals that do self-recognise include elephants, magpies, some great apes and dolphins. Even human babies can take about 18 – 24 months before they recognise themselves in a mirror.
So why don’t dogs self-recognise? Well dogs have evolved to communicate through their sense of smell and make use of scent rather than visual recognition.
Marc Bekoff, a biologist, argues that dogs are self-aware, they are just not particularly interested in visual cues. They are more interested in scent, so can recognise their own scent compared to the scent in other dog’s urine. So dogs do self-recognise but usually the scent in their own urine!
From our Psychologist, Tracey Jones
ACS Distance Education