Are Dogs Self-Aware?

Are dogs sentient? Yes. Research shows they appear to understand how their actions affect other dogs and humans.


Experts say dogs are both self-aware and sentient, able to both feel and perceive others’ feelings. Self-awareness in dogs means they understand how they affect others and the events around them. Dogs are self-aware.

Mirror Recognition Fails

We know that dogs recognize themselves by odor, but they don’t recognize themselves by sight, as the “mirror test” shows. They are not able to realize the creature barking at them in the mirror is them.

But, according to a study in Scientific American, dogs recognize other dogs as dogs and humans as, well, something else. The main reason is that their senses of smell and sight are so much better than ours.

Hence, they recognize people they’ve known before, dogs they’ve known before, and because they remember events, they remember both species if they’ve had a bad experience with them previously.

So, yes, dogs have a level of self-awareness – but it’s not the exactly same as ours.

They’re Aware of Their Bodies

The journal Scientific Reports found that dogs do, indeed, have a definite sense of self-awareness. But it’s not as strong as humans.

For sure, both research and anecdotal evidence show that dogs are aware of the size and shape of their bodies. They know if they can fit in a dog bed or on a car seat.

At Eotvos Lorand University, in Budapest, Hungary, scientists did the same study on dogs that they had done previously on human toddlers and great apes. It’s a test to see if an animal understands its body moving through space – and how to affect it – and they found the results to be roughly the same in all three species.

Using 32 dogs, from a variety of breeds and of varying sizes, did several experiments, including one in which a toy was attached to either a blanket or to the ground. In almost all cases, the dogs quickly discerned that, if the toy was attached to the blanket and not the ground, they had to move off the blanket to drag the toy to them. This showed they grasped the effect of their size or weight on the blanket and the toy.