It’s safe to say that nearly everyone has been startled or taken aback by their own reflection, only to realize oh yeah, that’s me just milliseconds later. In a now-viral Reddit video, user Mordessus tries to give his rescue dog the same experience, and the dog can’t seem to grasp the concept of mirrors. When this rescue dog sees the mirror, equal amounts of cuteness and hilarity ensue.
Aside from clever jokes and sweet comments from other Reddit users, many have begun to ask whether dogs can see themselves in mirrors. And if they can, do pups understand what—or who—they’re seeing in the reflection? While we may have to wait for an answer backed by science, researchers are busy testing hypotheses.
Mirror, mirror on the wall
In a 26-second video posted on Reddit’s “r/AnimalsBeingDerps” page, his caring human dad talks a Tibetan mastiff through the dog’s first encounter with a mirror. The big floofer, whose dad calls him “Bruiser” in the video, can be seen standing inches from a full-length mirror, barking at his own reflection.
“That’s you,” his dad soothingly explains between the mastiff’s barks—or boofs, if you will. “You’re barking at you.”
The adorable pup breaks eye contact with his reflection to look at his dad in the mirror while appearing to listen. Then, another little boof. Bruiser watches his dad’s finger point from dog to mirror—trying to show him how reflections work—but it’s not certain whether or not Bruiser gets it. That’s okay, Bruiser! You’re perfect exactly as you are.
“He’s doing a motivational self-talk and you’re interrupting him,” user Sillyist joked. Several others interpreted Bruiser’s expression as pure confusion, with PoundApprehensive868 saying, “Look at him wondering why his human has multiplied into 2 humans.” Yeah, we’d be confused if that happened, too.
Can dogs see themselves in mirrors?
Many users were quick to notice the video’s accompanying text: “We rescued a [Tibetan Mastiff] a little while back and those first months in an outdoor kennel did not prepare him for mirrors.” Several commenters can relate, citing experiences with their own pets and the mixed signals around reflections.
“My dog looks at himself in the mirror all the [time],” explains No_Butterscotch_9149. “[…] and sometimes [he comes] down and he’s at a sit position staring at [himself]. Especially after a hair cut lol.” Sounds like Bruiser needs to learn from this dog!
Redditor DoctorCrocker spurred discussion with a comment about the mirror self-recognition (MSR) test, which scientists use to examine animals’ self-awareness. To perform this test, an animal is anesthetized and marked with paint on a part of their body that’s visible only in a reflection. When they wake, they’re given a mirror. If they take interest in the mark on their body by appearing to notice it in the mirror, they’ve passed the MSR test.
It’s impossible not to take note of how few species have passed the test—dogs, for example, are missing from the list. Of course, that’s not to say that pups don’t see or react to their reflections, but they don’t necessarily recognize the image as themselves.
That said, Bruiser might have more than one adventure with mirrors! He’ll likely become used to them in time, whether or not he entirely gets it, but his human dad may have a tricky time teaching him to understand that he’s barking at himself. Don’t worry, Bruiser, you’ll figure out mirrors in your own way. Good boy!
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