He also uses his paws like hands way more than any other dog I know
July 9, 2013 1:08 PM   Subscribe

My dog (pic) uses a strategically placed mirror to see my face when I'm in bed and check if I'm really asleep or not. He recognizes that the reflection is me and reacts accordingly. Is this genius level behavior with regard to the mirror test? Why or why not?

I don't really thing he's a genius, but I am looking for an explanation of why most people say dogs fail the mirror test despite what I've observed my dog doing.

His reactions are as follows: if I'm asleep he'll either cry to wake me up or got back to his bed. If I'm awake he'll beg (without making a sound) to come into bed. Begging for him is sitting (based on his training) or jumping (when he is being bad).
posted by 2bucksplus to Pets & Animals (17 answers total)
 
He doesn't know he is looking in a mirror. He thinks he is looking at you. The mirror test is not about recognizing others in a mirror -- they look the same in the mirror or out of it -- but it is about recognizing yourself, since you can't otherwise see yourself to know what you look like. Does that make sense?
posted by Rock Steady at 1:11 PM on July 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


If he doesn't think he is looking at a mirror wouldn't he try to walk through tho? Or does he think its just a window?
posted by ian1977 at 1:13 PM on July 9, 2013


His reactions are as follows: if I'm asleep he'll either cry to wake me up or got back to his bed. If I'm awake he'll beg (without making a sound) to come into bed. Begging for him is sitting (based on his training) or jumping (when he is being bad).

Hmmm, I don't know. He is beyond cute, I mean that is a CUTE DOG(TM), but "either cry or go back to bed" are pretty different responses to seeing you asleep. And begging is either sitting or jumping, so... kind of inconsistent overall. I sleep with my back to my puppy and she does the same kinds of things even though she can't see me. She probably "senses" that I'm awake or asleep, and your dog probably does the same, but I don't think the sense in question is vision via a mirror.
posted by headnsouth at 1:14 PM on July 9, 2013


Also, your dog doesn't need to know this is a mirror showing you, only that it's an image correlated with you being awake or not. If it were a red light next to your bed that was on when you were awake, and off when you were asleep, your dog would figure it out without necessarily thinking that you were now a red light.
posted by zippy at 1:18 PM on July 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


the mirror test for self-awareness usually involves painting a red spot on the animal's chest...when they see it in the mirror, then look at it on themselves, then you know they recognised themself in the mirror.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:32 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The mirror test is about self-recognition, not recognition that you're looking at something that reflects.
posted by The World Famous at 1:34 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


How do you know it's based on the mirror? I'm fairly certain my dog can tell if I'm asleep or awake based on my breathing.
posted by lunasol at 2:02 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the book Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, Alexandra Horowitz examines the mirror test research on dogs in great detail and argues persuasively (to me at least) that that particular test of self-awareness is not appropriate for dogs, and that dogs pass other seemingly more appropriate tests. See here for a small taste of this.

I recommend this book and found it really useful for thinking about how my particular dog -- not just dogs in general -- uses his senses.
posted by OrangeDisk at 2:03 PM on July 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Just for the heck of it: in the spirit of scientific enquiry, hang something over the mirror and see how he reacts --- will he keep nosing at the mirror to try to 'find' you, or will he just turn to the bed where you actually are?
posted by easily confused at 2:03 PM on July 9, 2013


...your dog doesn't need to know this is a mirror showing you, only that it's an image correlated with you being awake or not. If it were a red light next to your bed that was on when you were awake, and off when you were asleep, your dog would figure it out without necessarily thinking that you were now a red light.

The "image correlated with you being awake or not" is an image of a loved-one's face, synchronized in real-time with the actual person. To say that a dog's thoughts about this are no different than responding to a red light is--to this friend of a dog--simply not believable.

I think the dog is simply using the mirror as a tool to see your face. No philosophical or psychological problem there.

Dogs can recognize their owners' faces

Furthermore, the "mirror test" has never been entirely accepted as demonstrating what it claims (self awareness). It has many critics.
posted by General Tonic at 2:32 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


i also have a mirror near my bed and if i'm sitting on the bed i occasionally catch my dog looking at me in the mirror. he's never made any reaction to the dog (himself) in the mirror which i find odd because if he thought there was another dog in the room he'd either want to play with it or bark at it like crazy.

one time i put a book on the floor standing up against my front door jam to remind me to take it with me. it had a photo of a lady's face on it and my dog started growling at it as he obviously thought it was a person. too funny.
posted by wildflower at 2:43 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


My totally unscientific opinion is that your dog is indeed a genius because of his precious leetle face.
posted by elizardbits at 2:51 PM on July 9, 2013 [18 favorites]


How do you know that your dog doesn't always start with silent begging? If you're asleep you may be missing it.
posted by shrabster at 2:56 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm going to vote "not genius". Can you share a video of your little Frenchie using his hands?
posted by coolsara at 5:29 PM on July 9, 2013


One of my dogs is truly afraid of other dogs and would never, NEVER play with another dog--and yet she will play with herself in the mirror visible from our bed, play growling and lunging and spinning and barking with a happy look on her face. And then the rest of the time snooze and loll about on the bed completely ignoring her reflection. At the same time, I catch her gazing at me through the reflection, we make eye contact, and if I call her to me, she doesn't go toward the mirror, she goes toward me. It seems to me that she has a pretty good understanding of what a mirror is, and that we're both reflected in it.
posted by HotToddy at 6:03 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think there's a bit of a continuum of intelligent behaviour with regard to animals and mirrors. There's:

"Dumb as a brick" (but still so cute) level, a.k.a my cat, who doesn't seem to see anything in mirrors at all and totally ignores them, except when occasionally trying to walk through them (but she does this with windows, walls, and whiteboards too)

"Sees moving images" level, where the animal will follow movement in the mirror with their eyes and be interested in it, maybe swat at the moving things or try to play with them. I've seen birds and reptiles doing this.

"Recognises as other" level, where the animal will see the thing in the mirror as another cat or dog, or as a human and try to interact with it in the way they would interact with that animal. Bristling and growling in defence, or trying to play. Youtube has lots of videos of this.

"Recognises as self" level, which as far as I know is only supposed to happen with elephants and chimps and things, but honestly, I've heard a lot of anecdotal support from pet owners that it is more widespread than researchers believe.

Since my cat is at level 1 and still struggles with things like basic geometry of the world and how she can interact with it ("I want to get into this box, but I am currently facing away from it. Help! How do I solve this problem? Meow! Meow! Human! Move the box!) I have no personal experience of anything near the genius of your dog. But I do believe he must be a genius, because as Elizardbits said, lookit his leetle face!
posted by lollusc at 8:06 PM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Rock Steady: He doesn't know he is looking in a mirror. He thinks he is looking at you.
You're going to have to prove that assertion; otherwise, you should phrase it as merely being your opinion.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:44 AM on July 10, 2013


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