Do Dogs Recognize Their Own Mirror Reflection?

By December 13 | See Comments

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Do Dogs Recognize Their Own Mirror Reflection?

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Dogs do not utilize mirrors to look back towards themselves. This does not mean mirrors are meaningless to canines. On the contrary, dogs have an interesting relationship with mirrors. For many, the first sight of a dog seeing itself in the mirror makes for much hilarity, as evidenced by numerous videos posted on Social Media.

Reaction on seeing its mirror reflection

When a dog sees its reflection, it reacts as if the image is yet another dog. The first reaction depends on the individual dog and could be a hostile one. The dog could bark, paw, or bow to the reflection. It could also display a number of aggressive postures like unwavering stare or body stiffness. These mannerisms, however, do not last for long. The canine quickly displays a behavioral change. When the dog finds that its attitude does not change anything, the animal completely ignores the mirror. The canine learns one of the most important lessons which could be had in the animal kingdom: habituation. This is the art of not responding to any previously important stimulus. Habituation is important as it helps the animal to save its energy for more important tasks. The art of habituation has helped dogs and other pets to become close to humans. These animals, since they are habituated, can ignore the many disturbing habits of humans.

The habituation rate varies among individual dogs. It could be affected by the quality or stimulus or how the latter affects the life of the pet. The frequency of stimulus is also important. As every human home has a mirror, modern dogs could quickly become habituated to their reflection. The old response, however, could come back if the dog has not seen any mirror for a long time.

Dogs use humans as tools

Dogs regard humans as a sort of tool. This can be puzzling to a human but makes perfect sense to a canine. Doors are opened by humans and we feed our dogs. The animals can even talk to humans in a sort of sign language. To give an example, if a dog loses something but sees it in an area which it cannot access, it will bark at the object and gaze at the nearest human. Repeated actions of this kind will push the human into retrieving the object. This is known as “gaze alteration”.

Studies have proved that dogs do understand the nature of mirrors, albeit in a limited way. A dog is found to find food after seeing its reflection in the mirror. It is clear that mirrors are not completely meaningless for dogs. The animals do not need mirrors to do tasks or in their lives. They need their noses and humans more.

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