Dogs Have a Conscience Like Humans: New 'Sniff Test' Reveals Self-Consciousness

First Posted: Dec 08, 2015 04:00 PM EST

Dogs are man's best friend for a reason; it turns out that they have a conscience. Scientists have taken a closer look at the canine and have found that they actually have self-consciousness-along with many other animals.

The ultimate proof of possession of a consciousness of self is evaluated based on the individual's ability to use his own reflection to notice and touch a mark (usually a red dot) on the face, head or other parts of the body. This test is known as the "mirror test" and the basis of it is that the subject who understands the concept of "self" and "the other" is able to distinguish between the two entities.

With that said, dogs show no interest in looking in the mirror, but usually sniff or urinate around it. Previous attempts to demonstrate the self-recognition of these animals have been inconclusive.

In this case, one researcher invested the "sniff test of self-recognition (STSR)," since dogs are more likely to act on stimuli from smells than from sight. The researcher demonstrated that even when applying it to multiple individuals living in groups and with different ages and sexes, this test provided significant evidence of self-awareness in dogs and could play a crucial role that this capacity is not a specific features of only great apes, humans, and a few others animals.

In this case, the researchers gathered urine from four dogs and then submitted the animals to the sniff test of self-recognition. Effectively, this is a modified version of the mirror test, carried out to check the sense of smell. The dogs were more interested in the urine of other dogs than of their own, which shows a certain self-awareness.

The findings reveal that dogs, and possibly other animals, are self-aware.

The findings are published in the journal Ethology, Ecology and Evolution.

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