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Authors

  • Con Slobodchikoff, Ph.D.
    Slobodchikoff is President and CEO of Animal Communications, Ltd., specializing in pet behavior problems and in educating people about the behavior of animals.
  • Karen London, Ph.D.
    London is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Pet Dog Trainer who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in the domestic dog.

« Becoming a Canine Pied Piper: How to have animal magnetism with dogs | Main | Preventing Cabin Fever In Winter »

December 03, 2007

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Randall Johnson

Now that it has been proven that dogs have mental concepts of others dogs, it stands to reason that they also could have mental concepts of other objects as well, i.e., people, other species of animals, objects. At least, now there is a reliable way to test this hypothesis and see how far it goes. What about adding emotional states, like happy dog/sad dog or even happy human/sad human? And then there’s the elusive question of self-awareness. From what I’ve read, dogs don’t do well on the ‘mirror test’for self-recognition and this has led some investigators to conclude that they aren’t self-aware. (On the other hand, apes, dolphins, and elephants—all big-brained mammals—have done well on the mirror test and have been pronounced as having self-awareness.) However, I’m not satisfied that dogs lack self-awareness just because of their performance on one kind of test. If they have a mental concept of other dogs, then by logical extension, they should have a concept of themselves as individual dogs, distinct from other dogs, and that, to me, suggests a sense of self. There ought to be a way to scientifically test this notion. Perhaps the experimental design used by the Austrian researchers could be applied or adapted to determine whether--or to what extent-- dogs are self-aware.

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