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View Full Version : Why doesn't my dog look at herself in the mirror?


Lillith Fair
04-13-2009, 01:27 PM
My dog will not look at herself in the mirror. Other dogs act cute and try to play with the dog in the mirror. My dog will not look and will not react to anything in the mirror.

Annie-Xmas
04-13-2009, 01:31 PM
The Master's Voice (http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/407/are-dogs-unable-to-see-2-d-images-mirrors-photos-tv)

fiddlesticks
04-13-2009, 01:37 PM
The dog I grew up with (a Shih-tzu) never paid any attention to mirror reflections or the television. Being proud owners, we chalked this up to a sign of extreme intelligence. ;)

Giles
04-13-2009, 02:44 PM
Most cats see themselves in the mirror, and recognise there's a cat there, but eventually realise that it's not a normal cat. I once watched a kitten see itself in the mirror for the first time, and it was very startled, because it did not think there was another cat in the room. So, if a dog is not reacting at all to itself in the mirror, it must have worked out that it's not a real dog in there, and is just ignoring the image.

Marley23
04-13-2009, 02:46 PM
So, if a dog is not reacting at all to itself in the mirror, it must have worked out that it's not a real dog in there, and is just ignoring the image.
I've always assumed this was because there's no scent coming off the mirror dog. I don't know if that's a realistic explanation, but none of the dogs I've had ever reacted to a mirror or to dogs on TV.

Chronos
04-13-2009, 02:52 PM
Dogs do, however, seem to react to the sound of other dogs on TV or the like. I assume this is because they can hear from a greater distance than they can see clearly, so it's plausible in the wild that a dog might hear another dog without being able to see it.

Whack-a-Mole
04-13-2009, 03:42 PM
Dogs/cats can certainly see themselves in a mirror and as noted sometimes they will react thinking there is another dog/cat there. In general though they twig to the notion that it is some sort of trick and learn to ignore it.

Some consider this a sign of animal intelligence. IIRC only humans, chimps (or some of the great apes, I forget) and dolphins recognize the image in the mirror as a reflection of them.

I have heard, do not know if it is true, that you should not put a mirror in a parrot cage (or other type of bird who mimics). Supposedly the bird will see another bird so stick with bird-talk. When no other bird is "present" they decide to mimic the people around them and "talk". Dunno if that is true or not though.

Really Not All That Bright
04-13-2009, 03:45 PM
Maybe she's ugly.
I have heard, do not know if it is true, that you should not put a mirror in a parrot cage (or other type of bird who mimics). Supposedly the bird will see another bird so stick with bird-talk. When no other bird is "present" they decide to mimic the people around them and "talk". Dunno if that is true or not though.
The stuff I read said it's bad because they'll think the mirror bird is a potential mate, and get cranky when mirror bird won't respond to their advances.

The Second Stone
04-13-2009, 03:48 PM
Elephants also recognize images. I saw a documentary once of a painting elephant, who could paint a picture of an elephant.

Drunky Smurf
04-13-2009, 03:59 PM
From my experience the youngs ones tend to be interested in the mirror dog/cat but eventually they figure out it is not real. I think not being able to smell the other dog/cat is what starts the process.

My younger cat who is two likes to play patty cake with himself in the mirror. He'll sit up on his haunches and continuelly swipe at his paws in the mirror. He'll paw paw paw paw at the mirror and then stop and look at himself and then paw paw paw paw some more and then look at himself. I think he knows it's not a real cat because any other time he ignores the mirror cat.

lissener
04-13-2009, 04:03 PM
Because. (http://www.nem.tku.edu.tw/courses/modernity/2B/image/Magritte_1929_treachery-of-images.jpg)

Toaster
04-13-2009, 04:14 PM
The painting elephants are taught to paint elephant shapes as it gives the owner-trainer cash and fame. http://www.snopes.com/photos/animals/elephantpainting.asp

Malleus, Incus, Stapes!
04-13-2009, 04:18 PM
For what it's worth, my cat has absolutely no reaction to seeing herself in the big hall mirror. Not that she looks anyway. If I pick her up and put her in front of the mirror, she doesn't give it a second glance as she tries to get away from her weird human.

jkusters
04-13-2009, 04:18 PM
I swear my dog had some concept of the purpose of the mirrors in our house. I could talk with her facing away from her, and if she could see my eyes in the mirror, that's what she would focus on. It was kind spooky, especially when she'd do it when I was some distance from the mirror.

Chronos
04-13-2009, 04:19 PM
The painting elephants are taught to paint elephant shapes as it gives the owner-trainer cash and fame.Even if the painting elephants can't recognize what they're painting as "an elephant" (and I'm not sure how you would even test that), they can at least recognize it as "the thing I'm supposed to paint".

Freudian Slit
04-13-2009, 04:22 PM
Dogs do, however, seem to react to the sound of other dogs on TV or the like. I assume this is because they can hear from a greater distance than they can see clearly, so it's plausible in the wild that a dog might hear another dog without being able to see it.

Most dogs I've associated with seem to ignore sounds of dogs on TV.

I've heard of dogs barking at the sight of other dogs. I always found that curious because dogs don't really seem to get the concept of pictures...do they?

aldiboronti
04-13-2009, 04:23 PM
Elephants also recognize images. I saw a documentary once of a painting elephant, who could paint a picture of an elephant.

That's not quite what it seems. From Snopes (http://www.snopes.com/photos/animals/elephantpainting.asp):

....... "painting" in this sense means the animals outline and color specific drawings they've been taught to replicate (rather than abstractly making free-form portraits of whatever tickles their pachydermic fancies at the moment), they work under the direction of trainers


In other words there's no evidence that the elephant recognizes the painting as an elephant at all, or indeed as a representation of anything. It's doing what it's been taught to do.

Lanzy
04-13-2009, 04:46 PM
Of my 7, three of the dogs react to barking dogs on TV, none react to a mirror. One will actually try to get to the dogs on TV, even non-barking ones. Last night she saw a tiger and went bonkers.

ChrisBooth12
04-13-2009, 05:16 PM
My dog used to park at herself in the mirror, she eventually stopped doing it and now ignores it. My other dog would watch TV really serious when he sees a dog on there.

Chronos
04-13-2009, 06:56 PM
I swear my dog had some concept of the purpose of the mirrors in our house. I could talk with her facing away from her, and if she could see my eyes in the mirror, that's what she would focus on. It was kind spooky, especially when she'd do it when I was some distance from the mirror.It'd be even spookier if she didn't. Since dogs don't understand language well enough for anyone to tell them that mirror images are two-dimensional, they still correctly understand that the image in a mirror is three-dimensional. It looks just like a person, unlike a two-dimensional photograph or the like, so it's only natural that, to the extent that a dog reacts to visual stimuli at all, that it should react to an image in a mirror in the same way that it reacts to real things.

Amblydoper
04-13-2009, 07:00 PM
Because. (http://www.nem.tku.edu.tw/courses/modernity/2B/image/Magritte_1929_treachery-of-images.jpg)

This is not a message board.

Kobal2
04-13-2009, 08:52 PM
I've always assumed this was because there's no scent coming off the mirror dog. I don't know if that's a realistic explanation, but none of the dogs I've had ever reacted to a mirror or to dogs on TV.

Absolutely unrelated and quite brain fart-ish. You've been warned.

Here in France, butchers often have a chicken-roasting oven on the pavement right outside the shop. There are like 6 spikes, with 3 or 4 chickens on each, slowly turning, cooking, dripping fat on each other. The smell is overpowering - in fact that's the whole idea : get your mouth watering as you're passing by.

We call these ovens "Dog TV", for obvious reasons :D

Giles
04-13-2009, 08:57 PM
This is not a message board.
But this is a reply to a comment posted on a message board.

lissener
04-13-2009, 09:04 PM
This is not a message board.

Actually, it is.

Lillith Fair
04-13-2009, 09:50 PM
If "ceci n'est pas une pipe," then what is it? Looked like a pipe to me.

Okay, my dog does not respond to dogs barking on TV but occasionally responds to a doorbell on TV. Meanwhile, every time a phone rings on TV I try to answer it.

Today I opened a window and hollered at a goose on top of a church roof that he was crazy. But was he crazy or was I?

Captain Carrot
04-13-2009, 09:57 PM
If "ceci n'est pas une pipe," then what is it? Looked like a pipe to me.'s a picture of a pipe. Quite different, though it might not seem that way.

Chronos
04-13-2009, 11:44 PM
Yeah, Magritte was very big on exploring the relationship between representational art and the thing represented. He's got another one (http://www.fiberline.com/gb/newsroom/graphics/07%20magritte.jpg) of a canvas in front of a window, with the scene painted on the canvas merging with the scene outside... Except of course, neither the painting in front of the window nor the scenery outside the window are real, both being nothing but part of a painting.

Markxxx
04-13-2009, 11:58 PM
I think it's the individual animal. I have seen dogs react to TV dogs or themselves in the mirror and other dogs simply don't care.

I had a friend with a dog that when we showed home movies (the old kind with a projector that was shown on a white sheet we had on the wall), the person in the movie had a hose of water and the dog tried to drink out of the hose.

My cat refused to acknowledge herself in the mirror, but I've seen other cats do this. My dog used to have no reaction to a dog barking on a tape or on a TV but could hear another dog half way down the block.

Other animals do, so I think it must be some kind of individual thing where the dog learns the behaviour from someone or something.

t-bonham@scc.net
04-14-2009, 07:17 AM
I have seen my cats react to sounds from a TV, when they were not looking at the screen -- cats meowing in a commercial and newborn lion cubs mewling -- by running up to the screen. But then they stopped, sniffed at the screen, then batted at it with a paw, then clearly decided that 'there's nothing here', and went back to whatever they were doing before that.

It seemed clear to me that they recognized that the image on the screen was not a real cat, either from the lack of scent or the failure of it to react to them. And it only took a couple of times before they learned to completely ignore the meowing sounds from the TV.

mnemosyne
04-14-2009, 01:09 PM
I think it's a learned disinterest, rather than an inability to recognise the cat/dog in the tv/mirror. Most kittens and puppies I've known react at least once to the TV and the mirror, but few continue to do so when they are older. I have one cat that ignores the mirror at all times, and another that will sit on the bed and watch us in the mirror; we could pick up a toy and she'd watch us move it in the mirror and then spin around to attack it. The cat that ignores the mirror also ignores the TV unless Jack Layton (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Layton) is on (we have no idea why, but she likes him...must be the mustache), and the other cat will occasionally watch the TV and try and catch things, especially hockey players!

My sister's dog will watch the closet mirror at the bottom of my parent's steps and wait for my sister to come down. He watches her in it, and as soon as she comes out with the leash or her jacket, or some other signal, he stands up and gets all excited. He clearly knows that the mirror is a magical way to keep track of her without having to climb the steps or crane his neck!

Lillith Fair
04-15-2009, 01:18 PM
My brother used to have a poster of Charlie Chaplin on his wall and the dog would go crazy barking at it.