Animal expert reveals whether dogs recognise their own breeds

Dog owners may be convinced that their furry friends can recognise other breeds – whether out in the park or when one pops up on the telly.

But the experts aren’t so sure.

In response to a reader question, zoo director Charlotte Corney told the BBC that although there is no specific research to discover whether or not dogs can recognise their own breeds, they can’t pass a mirror test.

That is, they don’t understand when they’re looking at a reflection of themselves. So the idea that they can distinguish a similar profile in another dog is quite a big stretch.

Corney goes on to say that the latest research indicates that dogs have no sense of "self" in the same way as dolphins or apes do.

But we have to give the canine species a little bit of credit.

"Formal research has proved that they can differentiate between pictures of dogs versus other species such as rabbits and cows," Corney said.

Even if man’s best friend can’t actively recognise its own breed, scientists reckon dogs actually have better social skills than humans.

These findings came from the University College London and formed the basis of last year’s Royal Institute Christmas Lectures.

Sophie Scott, a professor of neuroscience at University College London said that our tendency to view dogs and other pets like we would a child means we also underestimate them.

"There was a study this year that showed that dogs don’t like being hugged," Professor Scott told The Times .

"You look at photographs of dogs being hugged by people and the dogs show objective signs of distress.

"The dogs really like being with their owners, they want to be with their owners, but they don’t want to be held. It provokes anxiety in them: as an animal, they want to be able to move freely.

"And pretty much everyone’s reaction to this was: well, I don’t think that’s my dog. It was a very good example of this asymmetry.

"Dogs are great at reading us but we are pretty shocking at reading them."

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