I have a three-year-old German Shepherd. He once recently barked when he saw himself in the mirror. Why do you think he did that? Do dogs recognise themselves in the mirror?
For many pet owners like yourself, what your dog sees in the mirror might be puzzling. Having said that, not all dogs react to their reflections in the mirror the same way. Some dogs, especially puppies often treat the image as another dog and start reacting to it. They may bark at the image, sometime bow down and invite the other pup in the mirror to play.
This is almost the same as how they would react if they saw another real life dog in front of them. There are others that totally ignore the image. Even with the pups that are initially attracted to the mirror image, over a period of time, realise that the reflection in the mirror is of no consequence and start ignoring it.
Typically, in the real world dogs identify each other with their smell. This is why you find a dog, sniffing another one’s back especially if they are meeting for the first time or after a long time. The sense of smell is vital for a dog as he perceives the world around him by not what he sees, but by what he smells.
Even a new born pup, whose eyes and ears are not opened, does have his nose to guide him to his mother. It is his nose that is a first introduction to the world around him. His sense of sight and hearing develop later and he eventually learns to associate what he sees and hears with the smell.
It is thus believed, that even a dog that is initially excited will lose interest in the reflection once the image fails the sniff test. Animal behaviour studies suggest that dogs don’t understand that they are looking at themselves in the mirror. But this is not an indicator to say that your dog is not self aware. Again, dogs prefer scent-based information rather than visual ones. It could be a simple coincidence that your dog looked at the mirror and barked. Be assured that once he realises that the reflection is of no consequence, he will ignore the reflection!
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