A new study has been published that suggests dogs are self-aware and likely understand the consequences of the actions they perform. Any dog owner who’s walked into their home after a day at work and found doggo has gotten into something he’s not supposed to and is hiding in the corner can certainly agree with this new study. The study says dogs can display “body awareness,” which is a manifestation of self-representation.
Self-representation describes how we view ourselves and the image you hold of yourself in your mind. According to the study, an excellent example in humans is that infants as young as five months older can recognize their legs moving on video. The researchers note it is generally accepted that most species have some basic sense of self-perception and body awareness.
Dogs are known to possess complex cognitive abilities, including empathy and social learning. Those facts made canines an ideal subject for this new study. In the study, scientists tested 54 dogs by placing them all on a small mat while issuing commands to pick up and give an object to their owner. For the test, these objects were attached to the mat or the ground underneath the mat.
In one test, the team attached a ball to the mat and instructed the dog to give the ball to their owner. Since it was attached to the mat, the dog was unable to complete the request unless they got off the mat first. Many of the dogs were able to figure out the issue and got off the mask to complete the task, signaling that they were body aware.
For the second test, the team attached the ball to the ground underneath the mat, issuing the same command for the dog to give the ball to their owner. The goal of this test was to determine if the dog understood the difference between if there was an obstacle and if their body was the obstacle. The team found the dogs in this test left the mat less frequently, indicating they understood their body was not the issue preventing them from completing the task.