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Can Dogs Recognise Their Reflection In A Mirror?

Whether they chase, growl or bark when looking into the mirror, dogs are known to react comically to their own reflection. Many dog owners are begging the question to be answered as to whether they see themselves or another canine, so we’ve attempted to identify the solution.

As humans, from the age of two we begin to understand ourselves and gain a sense of self-awareness which allows us to view our reflection in the mirror and instantaneously recognise ourselves.

Puppies are often seen barking into a mirror in their early stages, but like humans seemingly develop a sense of awareness of their own identity and soon after begin to ignore the sight of themselves.

Animal species such as magpies, great apes and Asian elephants all possess the ability to self-recognize, but are dogs amongst these clever creatures who can crack this recognition completely?

No, is the simple answer. Dogs are able to identify other pooches, and objects including food when looking at reflective surfaces, yet fail to totally recognise their own reflection.

Dogs have failed what is widely referred to as the ‘mirror test’, in which researchers paint red dots on the faces of animals to test their reactions and determine whether they can acknowledge themselves.

This is primarily due to the fact that canines connect via their nose, not their eyes. A dog's’ sense of smell is forty times greater than ours, with up to 300 million olfactory receptors.

Pooches generically run what is known as a ‘sniff test’, in which objects are smelt to determine their interest, and are investigated or ignored as a result.

Their sense of smell is arguably the most crucial sense, and any owner of a male dog will notice that their companions can smell their own urine, remarking their territory during their walks.

Dogs do however obtain higher levels of detecting motion to humans, yet this may again add to their difficulties to recognise themselves in the mirror.

They may fail to visualise the details of their own self, concentrating more on their movement, resulting in reactions such as barking or mimicking gestures.

Your pooch may also recognize other canines from a distance, although it is unclear as to whether they hear, smell or visualise their friends primarily - and on top of that, dogs are now known pick out familiar faces from photographs.

A study from the University of Helsinki reviewed the eye movements of dogs when looking at images of their owners and familiar dogs, against those they had never met.

The results of the study evidences that pooches were more focused on familiar faces than strangers, as well as the fact that they spent longer viewing images of dogs than humans.

Each dog owner will take a differing view on the intelligence of their pet, yet it is clear that we all hope to discover further abilities of our canine friends in years to come - following the continuous development of scientific technology. 

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