Why Does My Dog Stare in the Mirror? It’s Hilarious!
That's my dog Simon. Yes, he's staring at a reflection of my dog Simon. LOL! He does this constantly. Anytime he sees his reflection in a mirror, a window or a glass door, he immediately stops in his tracks and stares at himself.
Occasionally he will bark at himself, but he'll mostly just stand there and stare intently as if he's trying to figure out if that "other dog" in the glass is a friend or a foe. I don't think he has any idea it's just him.
In fact, researches don't think Simon and the rest of canines have any idea. According to an article on DogTrainingMe.com, a researcher named Gordon Gallup conducted "mirror tests" with a variety of animals. The goal? To see if they recognized themselves and had some sense of self-awareness. Dolphins, orangutans, and killer whales showed some sense of recognition. Only great apes passed the test fully. You know what didn't even come close? You guessed it. Dogs!
By the way, Gordon Gallup developed the Mirror Self-Recognition Test in the early 1970s at Tulane University. This is a pretty fascinating summary of the research.
For the record, Gallup isn't necessarily the definitive voice on this matter. See, he wasn't the only scientist to research the concept of self-awareness in animals. Several others have as well. If you'd like a quick read that summarizes their findings, some of which are contradictory to Gallup's, CLICK HERE for a fascinating story from PetDogOwner.com.
So, my theory that Simon's just vain and likes to look at himself in the mirror seems to have been debunked. While dogs don't recognize themselves, there is basically one instinctual reason that dogs will stare at their reflections in mirrors. They're trying to figure out if they're going to play with that other dog or attack it.
Simon knows all about this. Though he's am exceptionally sweet Cairn Terrier, he's a killing machine at heart. He has mangled baby rabbits and even killed two possums. It's a good thing he isn't stepping in front of the mirror and launching into full Stranger Danger mode! I've seen that play out in my backyard. It's usually unpleasant and bloody. I guess it's comforting that he, more often than not, sees himself as a friend instead of a shaggy trespasser that has to be destroyed.
By the way, if you want a good laugh, check out this YouTube video. Here are some other dogs also trying to determine if their reflections are friends or foes.