Ever since we brought our black lab puppy home, she has slept in our bed. The first night at home, she whimpered and cried and my husband placed her beside me and she stopped. She’s been there ever since. For the most part, she doesn’t bother me, although now fully grown, she can sure take up space and leave you grasping onto the side of the bed out of fear of falling out. But I digress.
When she was still young, every now and then, Django would wake up, stand, and start barking in the middle of the night and I couldn’t figure out why. Then on afternoon, I heard her barking her head off when I was downstairs and she was upstairs. A quick look in my room and I saw her losing her mind and barking at the dog in the mirror… herself.
It was funny and endearing. I showed her myself and my hand petting her head but she just would not have it and was convinced that the dog she saw was a stranger, and thus needed to defend herself… against, herself.
It became a regular occurrence around the house if we heard her barking upstairs, we knew she was staring at herself. But her barks are loud and I soon began to close the door so she wouldn’t have the mid-afternoon showdown with her ego.
Only now, two years later, did I learn of why she did that.
Dr. Marty Becker, over at Vetstreet says, the “mirror test is considered an important evaluation of self-awareness in animals and a sign of the normal development of cognitive skills in children”:
When a young cat or dog first sees his image in the mirror, he often reacts as if a strange animal suddenly appeared. But when the image doesn’t pass the “sniff test,” the pet generally decides to ignore it for good.
Humans are believed to be about 18 months old before they can recognize themselves in the mirror. It seems that dogs might be around the same age.
I noticed just the other day that she no longer barks at herself in the mirror anymore and she just turned two. In fact, I caught her admiring herself in the mirror last week… but no barks at all.
Image: Flickr/ NicoleΩ
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