Do dogs question their existence?

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Are dogs content with just being dogs, or do they ever question why they’re here?

In a world where humans seem to be constantly searching for meaning and purpose in their lives, it’s interesting to consider how animals perceive their existence.

Dogs are probably one of the most loyal creatures on Earth, but does that mean they’re satisfied with just doing what they’re told and spending time with their human families?

Or do some of them look at life and ask themselves, “Is this all there is?”

It’s an intriguing question to ponder, and one that will likely never be fully answered. But it’s still fun to think about.

Research suggests that dogs may have more self awareness than previously thought. In a study conducted in 2021 dogs were presented with a set of tasks and it was found that the dogs were able to determine that their physical presence interfered with their ability to fulfil the task, suggesting that they understand more than perhaps we give them credit for.

Do dogs question their existence?

Can dogs question their existence?

It’s an interesting question to ponder – do or can dogs question their existence? And if so, what might that look like?

There’s no doubt that dogs are intelligent creatures.

They have the ability to learn and remember complex commands, they can solve puzzles, and they seem to understand our emotions.

So it’s not a stretch to think that dogs might also be able to ponder their place in the world.

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But what would that look like?

If dogs are questioning their existence, it’s likely that they would do so in a very different way than humans.

For us, existential questions often centre around our mortality and the meaning of life.

But for dogs, who don’t have the same concept of death, these questions might be more about their place in the pack and what their purpose is.

Do dogs question their existence?

Interestingly, some dogs do seem to go through a period of self-reflection during their adolescence.

This is when they start to question their role in the pack and whether they want to stay with their current family or strike out on their own.

So it’s possible that dogs do have a sense of self and are capable of questioning their place in the world.

Do dogs pass the mirror test?

The mirror test is a well-known test of self-awareness in animals.

It’s often used to determine whether an animal has a sense of self.

In the test, an animal is placed in front of a mirror and then marked with a non-toxic substance, like paint or chalk.

Do dogs question their existence?

If the animal touches the mark on its own reflection, it’s an indication that the animal recognizes itself in the mirror.

So far, only a handful of animals have been able to pass the mirror test, including chimpanzees, orangutans, dolphins, and elephants.

Dogs have been tested on several occasions, but the results have been mixed.

Some dogs seem to show signs of self-recognition, while others don’t seem to react at all to their own reflection.

It’s possible that dogs who don’t pass the mirror test simply don’t see their reflection as another dog or it’s possible that, because sight is not a dog’s primary sense, the mirror test doesn’t cater properly for dogs.

Do dogs question their existence?

Perhaps if there were a ‘smell reflection test’ then this may produce a different result?

This might not be as daft as it sounds as studies have shown that in a test that used urine for self recognition, that dogs were able to recognize their own scent.

Body awareness in dogs

On the back of the urine scent test, researchers decided to try a different approach.

They placed a toy onto a mat and then sat the dog on the same mat. The dog had to pick the toy up and take it to his owner but, the researchers had fastened the toy to the mat in such a way that if the dog were on the mat then the toy could not be picked up.

This appeared to make the dog think, that it was his weight that was preventing him from picking the toy up, so, most of the dogs got off the mat to try again.

Do dogs question their existence?

The dog’s bodies were the problem

The researchers considered that if the dogs were self aware then they would step off the mat which would allow them to pick the toy up, and, if they stayed on and continued to try then that would indicate that they didn’t understand.

The researchers put 32 dogs through four trials.

One was the test condition, in which the toy was attached to the mat, and three were control conditions designed to control for variables that might influence the dog’s behaviour.

The first of the control conditions simply requested that the dogs give up a toy that was loose on the mat, ensuring that they understood what was being asked of them.

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The second and third control conditions tested whether the dogs could move a mat that was blocking their access to the toy.

In both cases, dogs who could not move the mat stepped off of it in order to retrieve the object, just as they did in the test condition.

This research indicates that dogs are aware of their own bodies and how they are interacting with the world around them.

So, it’s possible that dogs do have a sense of self and are capable of questioning their place in the world.

Do dogs have a sense of self?

There’s still much we don’t understand about dogs and their inner thoughts.

But, the evidence we do have suggests that dogs are self-aware creatures who are capable of questioning their existence.

Further research may help us to better understand how dogs see themselves and their place in the world.

Final Words

It’s difficult to know for sure whether dogs have a sense of self.

But, the evidence we do have suggests that dogs are aware of their own bodies and how they are interacting with the world around them.

So, it’s possible that dogs do have a sense of self and are capable of questioning their place in the world.

Further research may help us to better understand how dogs see themselves and their place in the world.

Dogs are interesting creatures and it’s fascinating to try and understand more about their inner thoughts.

do dogs question their existence

References

Scientific Reports, Nature.com. Online. Accessed 5/6/22. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-82309-x

‘Do dogs have self awareness?’. Online. Accessed 5/6/22. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/do-dogs-have-self-awareness/

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Last update on 2022-03-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API