Does your dog get as excited seeing another dog as when seeing you? You may wonder: "does he know I am not a dog?"
Believe it or not, it's a pretty standard question dog owners ask themselves.
It's also something I have wondered about for a long time. Isn't it incredible how we can tell that an animal is a sheep and another is a horse in a split second? That a Chihuahua is not a large rodent but an actual dog?
Therefore, it's only natural to wonder if dogs have the same skill.
So do dogs think humans are dogs?
The first thing we have to remember is that the pack prevails. As a member of the pack, your dog will protect you. If another dog joins the pack or your home, the same will apply. Dogs can recognize pack members and know when someone doesn't belong.
The answer to "do dogs think humans are dogs?" is no. They don't think we are giant hairless dogs!
They think of us as their protectors, providers, and pack leaders.
The reason why dogs don't think of us as dogs is because of their sight. However, studies have shown that they can recognize dogs from other animals and mammals. More on that later.
In addition to sight, there's the smell
Dogs also have an incredible sense of smell. Humans have about 5 million smell receptors, while dogs have about 220 million. That's 44x more!
Humans can smell when there is a teaspoon of sugar in a cup of coffee. In comparison, dogs can smell the same teaspoon of sugar in a gallon of coffee. Impressive, isn't it?
Imagine that same superhuman sense of smell applied to differentiating people and animals. For example, humans smell differently than dogs. Therefore, your dog can tell you're not a dog just by smelling you.
Another fun fact is that dogs possess a pheromone at the base of the nasal passage. It provides them with species and sex information, and they can tell the difference between their family members and other dogs.
So when we ask, "dogs think humans are dogs?" the answer is no. Is it possible that our dogs think of themselves as humans?
If dogs know we are not dogs, do they also know they are not a human?
While it's a tricky question to answer, scientists did develop a test that gives us interesting insights.
Scientists developed the mirror test, a test that allows testing for self-awareness. If you have ever held a baby, cat, or dog in your arms and walked in front of a mirror, you probably have wondered if they were able to recognize themselves. I know I have!
You also probably have seen dogs walking in front of a mirror, seeing themselves, and starting to bark as if it were another dog.
Scientists have noticed that if they put a mark on a 2-year-old human when they look in the mirror, they see it and go directly to touch it on their body. While they can't necessarily say anything, they're probably thinking: "how did this get here?"
Scientists noticed the same thing with elephants and dolphins.
Surprisingly, dogs don't have the same self-awareness. In the same experiment, dogs don't care about the mark and will continue with their day, looking forward to their daily dog walk.
Study proves that dogs recognize other dogs
While dogs may lack sufficient self-awareness to recognize themselves in the mirror, they are still brilliant. An interesting study was led by French researchers in 2013 about animal cognition and whether dogs could recognize other dogs.
A total of 9 dogs joined the study and were trained to recognize dogs when shown a picture of a dog and another animal or human. They were praised and rewarded with treats whenever approaching the image of a dog.
Researchers used a wide variety of pictures: many different breeds, shapes, and angles. Some photos showed dogs' profiles, for instance. On top of that, other images included cats, sheep, gerbils, cows, rabbits, reptiles, and birds, among others.
The study proved that dogs could recognize other dogs and therefore don't think humans are dogs.
I hope you were as amused and impressed by these facts as I was. Dogs are brilliant beings, and no matter our differences, we will always be part of the same pack.