Can Dogs recognise themselves?

Jan 02, 2024
Can Dogs recognise themselves?


Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Can Dogs recognise themselves by sight?


Our own Bhruic had walked past an image of herself on our TV screensaver the other day and Mrs SDB asked me, ‘does she know that’s her on the TV?’.  I scoffed at the idea ‘how would she know what she looks like?’, but it got me thinking, ‘does she?’. Cue very quick climb down from my position and apology to wifey for dismissing the notion so quickly.


What do they understand?


It’s difficult to know exactly what animals perceive or understand about their own appearance, but there have been studies conducted and evidence gathered to suggest that some animals, including dogs, have some level of self-awareness.


Dogs have been known to recognise themselves in mirrors, although their reactions to the image can vary widely.


Some dogs can look confused or curious when seeing their reflection or image, some will bark or react defensively, while others may display behaviours that indicate self-recognition.




There is still ongoing research to determine the extent of a dog's self-awareness but it's important to note that their understanding may differ from that of humans as they primarily rely on their sense of smell and other senses to navigate and understand their environment.


Dogs may not have the same level of self-awareness as humans in term of visual recognition. For a deep dive into this have a look at "From self-recognition to theory of mind" by György Gergely.


Human self-recognition can be a lot more complex, including understanding the concept of the self as a distinct entity but that’s another topic altogether. Not going there today! Sheesh!


Dogs may show some signs of recognising their own reflection or picture but it's not understood to what extent they comprehend the concept of "self".


I think I'll keep it simple and say, some do and some don't.