Are Dogs Self-aware?

Are Dogs Self-aware?

Are dogs self-aware? 

Self-awareness is a trait that humans share with a handful of other creatures, including dolphins and orcas, some species of ants, magpies and great apes. 

But what about our beloved canines?

Does the mirror-test provide the answer?  The short answer is no. 

While the internet loves to share videos of seemingly hapless pups challenging their own reflections time after time, these are not evidence of failure on the dog’s part.

A mirror-test seeks to establish whether a person or animal can distinguish itself from others, taking for granted that there is only one way of seeing the world.  However, the assumptions of the test are culturally and experientially biased and limited.

In the case of dogs, the mirror-test gets an upgrade by taking into account how dogs see the world – through smell. 

Ethologist, Roberto Gatti used a “sniff test of self-recognition” to judge canine self-awareness based on their reaction to various samples of urine from themselves and other dogs. 

The finding was that dogs were able to tell the difference between their own sample and samples from other dogs, continuing to do so over time, even when the dogs moved in and out of season. IN this way, they showed self-awareness.  Furthermore, their self-awareness improved with age as it does in humans.