A dog owner that I used to meet regularly in the local park would swear that her dog could recognise Belgian shepherds and that she didn’t like them at all. Apparently, the little terrier would instantly move in the opposite direction if she saw a Belgian shepherd. But was that young dog really recognising the breed of the other pooch?
Would a dog even be able to recognise its own breed?
Experts say not!
The mirror test
There hasn’t been a great deal of research into this subject as most canine experts agree that it would be impossible for a dog to recognise its own breed because man’s best friend can’t pass the mirror test. In other words, they don’t even recognise their own image when they see it.
One of my dogs is living proof of this. He always barks when he sees himself in a mirror or darkened window and often gets really excited because he clearly thinks we have a visitor for him to play with!
Dogs and other animals
The truth is that dogs simply don’t have the sense of self that people and apes do. But whilst they can’t recognise themselves in the mirror, they can tell the difference between a dog and a different species. In studies, dogs have demonstrated that they can differentiate between photographs of dogs and snaps of cows and sheep.
Canine social skills
Interestingly, scientists believe that dogs have better social skills than people. Researchers at the University of London investigated canine social skills and their findings formed the basis of last year’s Royal Institute Christmas Lectures. Professor Sophie Scott explained that we misunderstand dogs because we often have a tendency to treat them like small children.
For instance, we love to hug our dogs but there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that they don’t like this. Dogs enjoy being near their owners and spending time with them but show signs of distress when hugged. Hugs make them feel anxious because they prefer to able to move around freely.
The bottom line is that dogs are pretty damn good at reading us but we are not so good at reading them. Our furry friends suffer our shortcomings with good grace but we really could do better!
If you think that your dog can recognise different breeds you are almost certainly wrong. They are reacting to the body language and behaviour of the dogs they see, not their specific look. If they often react badly to certain breeds, there are probably common traits of that breed that your dog simply doesn’t like.
One of my dogs likes spaniels because they generally want to play with him and he is a very playful dog. However, that doesn’t mean that he knows that they are spaniels or could recognise them in an identity parade. He is reacting to their bouncy natures and I really don’t think he would care what they look like as long as they are happy to chase him across the beach.
People think looks are important, dogs couldn’t care less!