Do dogs use a mirror to find hidden food?

Tiffani Josey Howell, Samia Rachael Toukhsati, Russell Conduit, Pauleen Charmayne Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Dog (Canis familiaris) cognition research that examines whether dogs are able to use a mirror as a problem-solving tool is rare. The aim of this study was to explore whether dogs could find food that was visible only via a mirror at the beginning of the experiment. In a laboratory setting, we exposed 44 dogs to a large mirror, attached at a 90- angle to an opaque barrier for 10minutes. Dogs were allowed complete freedom of movement. For the first minute of the exposure phase, the owner and experimenter stood against a wall, ignoring the dog; afterward, both walked around the room for 9minutes. The dogs could observe their movements in the mirror. Then, dogs were taught to associate a bowl with food, after which the bowl was surreptitiously placed behind the barrier, and the dogs were positioned so that they could see the reflection of the food in the mirror. Dogs were pseudorandomly assigned to the experimental group (n= 22) as described or a control group (n= 22), which was identical except that the mirror was covered during the testing phase. In the testing phase, dogs that could see the mirror were more likely to find the treat than dogs that could not (P= 0.032). Although fewer dogs in the control condition found the food, those that did were just as likely as those in the mirror condition to locate it within 3 minutes. This suggests that, although dogs food-searching behavior can be triggered by the mirror s visual cues to locate food, some dogs used other cues that we were unable to control.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425 - 430
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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