Can dogs recognize and respond to their own reflection in a mirror?

2bebetter
5 min readDec 20, 2023

Have you ever wondered if dogs can recognize themselves in the mirror?

Photo by PartTime Portraits on Unsplash

It’s a common belief that only humans and a few other species can do this.

But, recent studies have shown that dogs might actually have the ability to recognize themselves too.

One study conducted by researchers at the University of Bari in Italy tested this hypothesis.

The researchers placed a mirror in a room and allowed dogs to explore it.

They found that some dogs showed signs of self-recognition, such as touching their own faces or bodies.

However, not all dogs displayed this behavior, suggesting that self-awareness in mirrors might vary among individual dogs.

It’s important to note that most dogs initially react to their reflection as if it were another dog.

They may bark, growl, or try to play with the dog in the mirror.

This behavior is not necessarily a sign of self-recognition.

To determine if a dog truly recognizes itself, scientists use the “mark test.”

In this test, a mark or colored dot is placed on the dog’s body, usually on its forehead or ear.

If the dog tries to touch or investigate the mark after seeing it in the mirror, it suggests self-awareness.

However, so far, dogs have not consistently passed the mark test.

This suggests that even if they can recognize themselves in the mirror, their level of self-awareness might be limited.

It’s believed that dogs rely more on their sense of smell rather than visual cues to identify themselves.

So, while dogs may not fully comprehend their reflection, they can still have interesting reactions to it.

Some dogs may enjoy looking at themselves, wag their tails, or even appear confused by the “other dog.”

In conclusion, while dogs may not have a clear understanding of their reflection, they might still be able to recognize themselves in the mirror to some extent.

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