Adapting the self-recognition test for my dog

I tentatively think my dog recognises that the image she sees in the mirror is herself. As far as I know, this is considered uncommon for dogs, but my reasons for suspecting this is the case are:

  • She does not react to her reflection in any way - she does not treat it as if it were another dog (which is different from what happens if she sees another dog in any other situation - in real life at a distance, through a window or on TV - in all of those cases, she reacts with excitement and interest (and often barking), but never at her own reflection.
  • When we are out walking, if we encounter a dog that looks very similar to her in appearance (which is rare) she has a markedly different kind of heightened interest and approaches with what I can only describe as weird cautious curiosity; as if she knows the other dog looks like her (not just like a dog)

Obviously I’d like to test this further, but I feel like the normal mirror test (where a sticker is placed on the forehead of the subject) might not work, just because she would feel it on her (quite short) fur.

So… how can I design a test to gather more evidence either supporting my notion or dispelling it?

Don’t use a sticker. Try swiping a little food coloring or using a marker to make a dot on her forehead instead. Let it dry and then do the mirror test.

I had a dog like that. Some other neighborhood dog that looked very much like her would occasionally come around our yard and she would go nuts, unlike how she reacted to other dogs. I don’t know how she could ever have seen herself in a mirror, but she was an all black dog, obviously could tell she was black, so another all black dog might have triggered her no matter how similar it appeared otherwise.

My dog Duke reacted to his own image reflected in a glass door and in a mirror. I’m pretty sure he thought that was another dog, when we moved the mirror he immediately went to look behind it.

Oh, I forgot to mention, her fur is jet black - anything that might show up on it, might also be palpable

Try a non-toxic fluorescent marker. I have a friend who is a breeder and when she would have litters of pups that all looked the same, she would use them to put different colored dots on their heads so she’d know who was who. Like this. They paid absolutely no mind to it whatsoever (and yes, they were short-haired dogs, many of them dark-haired).

Thanks - I guess the next problem is applying it without her noticing me doing that

That stuff stays on for awhile. Add the mark, and then do the test later after you’ve done some other things with her. She won’t connect one thing with the other.

Spray paint? :wink:

More seriously - white out.

With modern tech, it would fun to set up an arrangement with a video screen and outward facing camera that can feed back an image exactly like a mirror; but then would allow image manipulation - not only could you change something about the subject itself, but you could (say) add something approaching from behind and see if the subject turns to look.

Not practical for you, of course, but I just like the idea.

Actually, I probably could just do something like that with Zoom - using a video as a background

My dog seems to understand that it’s him in the mirror. He’ll lay on the bed looking at himself and I swear he’s preening, but no reaction like Hey look at that dog!

But when he sees his reflection in the window when it’s dark outside, he goes apeshit because he thinks there’s another dog right outside the window peeking in.