back to article What's that, Lassie? Dogs show signs of self-awareness according to peer-reviewed academic study?

Canine stars of internet videos the world over have another feather in their cap as a scientific study claims they show signs of self-awareness and understanding the consequences of their actions. The Hungarian study involved 32 pet dogs giving a toy to their human handler. Sometimes the furry friends were grabbing a toy …

  1. RuffianXion

    Anyone who's watched their dog chasing its own tail might beg to differ.

    1. Blackjack Silver badge

      Anyone who has watched how stupid people can be may prefer dogs.

      1. RuffianXion

        It's not so much the stupidity as the ignorance, bigotry and general nastiness of people that makes me prefer domestic canines; the stupidity is most often a source of entertainment.

        1. illiad

          all this bigotry is due to the ability to communicate in complex ways... I am sure some dogs can be argumentative if another is abusive!

          1. jake Silver badge

            Yes, dogs will argue with each other. They usually settle it without anyone getting hurt.

        2. Hawkeye Pierce

          As Mark Twain [*] said:

          “The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.”

          [*] Quite possibly misattributed [**] given the number of quotes that are falsely attributed to him.

          [**] "Don't believe everything you read on the Internet" as Abraham Lincoln once said.

          1. Blackjack Silver badge

            What kind of journalism is this? Were is the dog opinion?

            1. Duncan10101

              I'm trying to see the IT angle .........

              1. jake Silver badge

                "I'm trying to see the IT angle"

                Go back to TFA. See the very first word, in the upper left hand corner?

                Hopefully this helps your understanding.

    2. Alumoi Silver badge

      Did you even consider the fact that the dogs may be doing it for fun? Like in: I'm bored, let's run around the tree pretending I'm chasing my own but?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Anyone who's watched their dog chasing its own tail

      never mind humans scratching their own balls! As opposed to?... uhm... ok.

  2. jake Silver badge

    This is new?

    Anyone who has spent some time learning how to train humans how to interact with dogs knows that dogs are self aware. It's true that they do a lot of stuff by rote, and some of that seems to be pre-programmed genetically ... but trust me, they have a sense of self. For example, dogs will routinely (try to) pass the blame to another dog (or other animal, in some cases).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is new?

      I would have upvoted this comment earlier but I had to wait until the cat got off my laptop

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: This is new?

        My cats have been known to post for mlp;['

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is new?

      Dogs are definitely self aware.

      Has anyone watched "Animals do the funniest things" type programmes ?

      On one, the dog stops, sniffs its behind, and walks off.

      It knows it is going to fart, it farts, it knows it smells, has a sniff, and promptly walks off.

      It was probably thinking "I will let the husband to take the blame for that...."

      They're not stupid.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: This is new?

        "Has anyone watched "Animals do the funniest things" type programmes ?"

        I'm sure somebody has. I feel no need, I just look out the window.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    my Dog

    My dog says he is self aware but some of the dogs he knows aren't.

    1. illiad

      Re: my Dog

      :D :D like some humans then!!! LOL

  4. swm

    Of course dogs are self-aware

    Anyone who has owned a dog knows they are self-aware. I've seen dogs happy, sad, contrite, in fact, just about all the emotions that a person has.

    Watch a dog dreaming and you will understand.

    The issue might be: how aware are they? My personal belief is that they are quite aware of themselves.

    1. NXM Silver badge

      Re: Of course dogs are self-aware

      I've seen cows dream, but no idea what about. Grass? Arguments with other cows?

      1. Muscleguy

        Re: Of course dogs are self-aware

        All the animals which have passed the mirror test of self awareness are social animals. Herd animals like cows need to recognise other cows as individuals and know their hierarchy relationship to them. The more self aware you are the better able you are to operate in a hierarchy.

        It is no accident that the ape with the highest level of self awareness is also the most hyper social. Chimp groups schism over 20-30 ape sizes. A Chimp village would be a violent hellhole. Ditto Gorillas who live in male dominated harems as well. Orangs are largely solitary. Only some baboons are highly social.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Of course dogs are self-aware

        I've seen every type of animal here at the Ranch dream. That includes frogs, snakes, turtles and fish. At least, I assume they were dreaming. Typical moving without actual locomotion, eating motions, "pseudo-pouncing", quivering extremities, and the like while asleep/dozing/hybernating/whatever.

      3. HorseflySteve

        Cow dreams?

        I can't comment on cow dreams but I can tell you what horses dream about. I was was once grooming my horse when the horse in the next stable let out a loud whinny as though pleased to see somebody. Expecting to see his owner, I looked but the there was nobody there so I looked into his stable to see him lying down & humping his bed in his sleep!

  5. illiad

    The term 'self-aware' is very misused by psychologists who think it means something far more complex.. A bit like a many astrophysicists who say 'space' and mean 'spacetime'..

    NORMAL people know it just means 'you know who you are' Just remember that most animals DO NOT think like humans - have a look at the tv prog 'dog whisperer'

    The only similarity is with a 6 to 10 month old baby, that most people understand.

    You must have seen dogs and cat that are able to open a door, realize how a 'handle' works and read your 'body language like a book!

    It would be great if humans had their great sense of smell, you could tell of your GF was coming down the road yards way!! :)

    1. Alumoi Silver badge

      It would be great if humans had their great sense of smell, you could tell of your GF was coming down the road yards way!! :)

      She could also smell your other GF quite easily off you, don't you think?

  6. Rich 2 Silver badge


    I’m no animal behavioural expert but my thought is “of course dogs are self-aware”. I’m sure a bloody squirrel is self-aware too. And a hippo.


  7. DrBobK

    God there are a lot of the "I think xyz is true so it must be" brigade out today. The idea in science is that we test hypotheses in order to assess their validity. But I see I'm wrong here - all we need to do is have an opinion.

    ps I think this will be downvoted by exactly the same group of people who believe opinion trumps science. Did you see what I did there?

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      > all we need to do is have an opinion

      Welcome to the 21st century.

      1. Steve K

        Ruff ideas

        They are probably only ruff ideas

    2. jake Silver badge

      Has science proved you are self aware, DrBobK?

    3. EBG

      I think your post will be upvoted by the type of people who think that someone can see something with their own eyes, but if they are not a trained university researcher what they have seen is "anecdotal" and invalid. Notwithstanding that there is a vast number academic papers that peer reviewed but are still shyte - at least according to my wife who is a STEM reader (associate professor to west pondians).

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        > if they are not a trained university researcher what they have seen is "anecdotal" and invalid

        In my experience, that applies to a lot of "trained university researchers" too. A title or an amount of years spent in a university don't necessary make you observant or intelligent (or even allow you to understand the basic principle of scientific research...). Which concurs with your statement about those academic papers: There is a lot of "monkeys with typewriters" going on there...

  8. Persona Silver badge

    "Our results with dogs are the first indications that recognizing the body as an obstacle may exist independently from being capable of visual self-recognition," they said.

    And yet we know that sometimes an animal caught in a trap will choose to gnaw its own leg off. Clearly it realizes that it's body was the obstacle to escape and it would be painfully aware that it was it's body.

  9. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    An even more amazing discovery, dogs are more intelligent than most humans.

    Have you ever sat in a supermarket and people watched? Its soul destroying , knowing that I am a part of this shit show, somehow

    1. adam 40 Silver badge

      Fuck me - a typing dog!

  10. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    Such is the hubris and self-assuredness, that hoomans think they are experimenting on mice, its actually the other was round

    Dogs are like...bwaaahahahha

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Nobody on the Internet knows that you are a dog

    Nobody on the Internet knows that you are a dog. Except, now the dog does.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Nobody on the Internet knows that you are a dog

      There are no dogs on The Internet. Not even Spot. Dogs are Not Allowed.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I use one simple test for self-awareness: does it seem to know the mirror image is itself, or does it bristle and freak out?

    If it can't conceive of a mirror image as being itself after a lifetime of pool and pond reflections, I figure it isn't aware of itself as an entity, but is only reacting to what it senses OUTSIDE itself.

    1. DrBobK

      Comparative Psychology is hard.

      Just as a point of interesting information, a paper was published fairly recently that demonstrated that a species of fish (a cleaner wrasse) could pass a fish-oriented version of the mirror self-recognition test Now this may, or may not, demonstrate that fish have a sense of self. What it does do, is cause one to question exactly what the mirror self-recognition test itself demonstrates. Maybe one has to think a little more carefully about the means by which one might test whether an animal (or an infant) is self-aware.

      One might also think about this issue when deciding whether all of the "I've seen my dog do xyz so it is obvious that it has some human-like mental world" are actually worth paying any attention to. One of the founders of comparative psychology in the 19th century, George Romanes, tried to develop a theory of comparative intelligence by collecting and collating such anecdotes - it was an abject failure. I wrote some lectures about this decades ago that were posted on the web by other academic sites (with my permission) - not sure if they're still up...

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Comparative Psychology is hard.

        Anyone trying to compare canine to human mentality/psychology is obviously doing it wrong. Dogs aren't people. Dogs are dogs. To understand dogs, you have to think like a dog. To train dogs, you have to act like a dog, at least to a degree. Likewise horses, cats, hogs, and sheep aren't people. Thinking otherwise is a major mistake in understanding the question.

        Remember, to err is human. To moo, bovine.

    2. JohnG

      My dog ignores itself in the mirror but it can recognise refections of me or other people (and react accordingly) - I guess the dog percieves his own reflection as inconsequential. Many dogs have to learn about mirrors when puppies i.e. they initially think it is another puppy - rather similar to the reactions of human babies.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When our dog is on the lead and comes to a barrier that it could easily walk under, it walks around. I'm pretty sure this is because it knows that the owner at the other end of that lead can't go under.

    Arguably this is spatial awareness rather than self-awareness, but it seems similar to the test in the article.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Of course, Dogs are self-aware ... says every dog owner !!!

      "When our dog is on the lead and comes to a barrier that it could easily walk under, it walks around. I'm pretty sure this is because it knows that the owner at the other end of that lead can't go under."

      Dog No.1 is often prepared to test this hypothosis as she is *aware* that it is only her opinion and *maybe* we will go under just to prove her wrong !!!


      She is a cheeky little dog who likes to see what we will do ...... for a laugh !!!

      As this is a Border Collie, I am not totally sure *which* is mostly true !!!??? :)

      Dog No. 2 marvels at her cleverness and admires from afar.

      He also will request being put on a lead *before* temptation, such as a dog he knows in the distance.

      If you do not put him on the lead it is taken as permission to run ahead and greet said dog !!!

      He is also a Border Collie which means I have a canine 'Brains Trust' to handle. :)

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      > When our dog is on the lead and comes to a barrier that it could easily walk under, it walks around.

      That's training. Guide dogs for the visually impaired even learn to estimate if some passage is high enough for their owner to not bump his/her head on, and will guide their owner around it if not.

      1. Muscleguy

        But the point is the animal has to be capable of being thus trained.

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          > the animal has to be capable of being thus trained

          I honestly don't see why. The ability to do this would only depend on spatial representation, and is not much different from the pretty standard "is this gap too wide to be jumped over?".

          At best you could argue the dog needs to retain awareness of his master's dimensions, but that too is pretty standard requirement in a world where you would be constantly surrounded from potential preys and predators, and size differences can decide between life or death.

    3. Muscleguy

      A dog I used to walk did this with lamposts when on the lead. It has been shown dogs are hyper aware and very sensitive to human emotions and are very good at reading their owners’ emotions.

      Doesn’t make them self aware to a large degree but that level of social awareness requires some self awareness. But there are obvious levels.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        > dogs are hyper aware and very sensitive to human emotions and are very good at reading their owners’ emotions

        Dogs are animals living in packs (a society), which requires being able to read, understand and act according to the mood of your fellow pack members.

        That been said, even cats, which are solitary, are capable of sensing their owner's hosts mood and react to it. The difference is they only do it if they really care about you, and caring isn't automatic or implied.

        To go back to topic, it would mean that you could have guide cats, except that it could happen that some days they wouldn't mind the jerk bumping his head or falling off a cliff...

  14. Danny Boyd

    Watch enough cat videos...

    ... and you will come to inevitable conclusion that the cats are not only self-aware, but they champion a superior (to us humans) intelligence. Which, given their rather tiny brains, is mystifying. My wife thinks cats are "thin clients" connected directly to The Universe.

    Same with dogs.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Watch enough cat videos...

      > their rather tiny brains

      Size doesn't do everything, else whales would be ruling the planet!...

  15. skershaw54

    Are there any animals that are dumber than dogs? I don't think so.

    Some plants are smarter than dogs.

    1. Steve Kerr

      To be fair, plants are smarter than some people

    2. Earache

      I take it you're not a Facebook user?

  16. JulieM Silver badge

    STD: Smart Telephone Dog

    I had a GSD cross who, if I had not answered the phone for a few rings, would bark; and sometimes even grab my sleeve gently and lead me to the phone!

    I did not teach her to do this; she managed to work it all out entirely for herself. I guess she must have thought the phone was crying and I was making it better by talking to it.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: STD: Smart Telephone Dog

      "I guess..."

      Maybe. I guess thst the phone is painful to lidten to in the near ultrasonic and the poor dog has learned that only you can make the horrid noise go away. But smart enough either way.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: STD: Smart Telephone Dog

      That's learned behavio(u)r.

      Here at the Ranch, if we wear our outdoor shoes/boots anywhere indoors but in the mud room, the Collie frowns at us until we remove the offending articles. If we ignore her, she'll nose-nose-nose us, and occasionally bark, until we comply. Then she very carefully puts the footwear where it belongs ... Full story here.

      1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: STD: Smart Telephone Dog

        Is she putting the smell where it belongs?

  17. Danny 2

    One of my cats has started chasing it's own tail. If I had a tail I think I would too.

    The Tech Helping Dogs Learn to 'Talk' With Humans

    Dolphins have similar personality traits to humans

    Sirius by Olaf Stapledon - (The guy who came up with Dyson spheres)

    Thomas embarks on a program of using steroids and other chemicals to rapidly develop cognitive power of dogs, resulting in super sheep dogs. Sirius, however, proves to possess a dog intelligence comparable to a normal human being, as he is able to communicate with English words, although it takes some time for the humans to understand his canine pronunciation.

  18. Justin Clements


    All dog owners know how bright dogs are. And then some researcher comes along and cries "look what I've discovered about dogs" and we're all sitting there think "f-off, the dog is doing my crossword".

    It's cats that are thick. Dense beyond believe.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Weird

      No, cat's aren't stupid.

      Our acreage belongs to the (mostly feral[0]) cats, but they share it with us in return for fresh water, a place to sleep away from the coyotes, and a little quality chow. They also share with the folks east, west, and south of us (all of whom understand cats). The cats pee and poop at the outer corners of the ranch, where it won't get in anybody's way ... and in the fancy rose garden and pool area of the asshole who lives just north of us. He hates cats, and they carefully return the favo(u)r.

      The idiot to the north is clueless. And has had a serious rodent problem for the near two decades that he has lived there ... Strangely enough, we don't, and neither do the neighbors to the east, west and south. I wonder why.

      [0] Most of them get trapped at least once for spay/neuter and basic injections (difficult or impossible to live trap a feral cat more than once) ... According to the vet, they probably titer out for things like rabies for as long as they live, which isn't long. Sad to say, the ferals are part of the food chain here in Northern California.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Weird

        > No, cat's aren't stupid.

        Definitely not. They just don't conform to the "hey pet, do something to amuse me" idea humans usually have about animals living with them. Cats are solitary individualists with a character and feelings, and thus can become your best friend or your worst nightmare, depending on how you treat them, just like people.

        On the other hand dogs always try to fit in a pack, and if you're deemed to be the pack leader, the dog will obey you without question ("the faithful dog" illusion - Just try to lose the "pack leader" attribute and see what happens, when your "faithful" dog, now the leader, tries to bite you into submission...).

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