Dogs were already known to possess some complex cognitive abilities, such as empathy or social learning, but it was not entirely clear whether they had any kind of self-awareness.
Now a new study, conducted with 32 domestic dogs and published in Scientific Reports, suggests that dogs are able to recognize their own body as an obstacle, as well as understanding the consequences it causes on their own actions.
Dogs got off the carpet much more often and earlier when it was really necessary
To reach this conclusion, researchers at the Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary tested their quadruped participants through a series of tasks in which their body was an obstacle, that is, by their own weight they could not perform a certain task. Pets had to pick up and hand-deliver a small toy to their owners while standing on a rug to which the toy was attached. The catch was that, to achieve this, the dogs had to leave the carpet.
In this simple experiment, the scientists found that the dogs left the mat earlier and more frequently than in similar exercises where the toy was not anchored to the matbut to the ground, where the dogs did not feel any force that lifted their feet when they pulled the rug.
Similarly, the authors perceived that animals left the carpet more with the toy in their mouth when the doll was attached to this than when he did it to the ground. In 77 of the 113 tests carried out, the dogs were removed from the carpet to try to give the toy to their owners.
“When comparing the conditions of both tests, we found that the dogs got off the mat much more frequently and earlier when it was really necessary. In other words, when his body was the obstacle ”, the scientists point out.
Dogs perceive their own body
To rule out other possible explanations, such as the dogs leaving the carpet out of discomfort, the experts subjected them to other tests in which, on the carpet, they were uncomfortable pulling it with the objective of being abandoned. Only five dogs left the carpet in this circumstance.
These data suggest that dogs are able to recognize their body as an obstacle that prevented them from meeting the goal of delivering the toy to its owner. Also, that the pets differentiated when it was necessary to abandon the carpet to achieve its purpose and when it was not necessary.
Pets differentiated when it was necessary to abandon the carpet to achieve its purpose and when it was not necessary
“Dogs could represent their own actions and their consequences in their mental model and separate it from other external stimuli. They reacted differently when these stimuli were caused by their own action ”, they indicate.
As reflected by the researchers in the study, this finding supports the idea that dogs have body awareness, which is “the ability to keep in mind information about one’s own body, as an explicit object, in relation to other objects in the world,” according to the authors. In his opinion, this ability could be considered one of the fundamental pillars of self-representation.