Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Are dogs able to see or recognize themselves in photos?

Dear Matt:

The other night when my family and I pondered this question I had a "Eureka." I realized only one guy (and a few elves) would be able to sort this one out. Our family dog, who goes by the name Boondock, is not brilliant but he's incredibly thoughtful and perceptive. Most of all, he is the most photogenic dog in the history of all our family pets. When we show him all his great photos, he gets a funny gleam in his eyes. He puts his ears back and licks his lips bashfully. Is he recognizing himself? Can his vision process what is on a photo? And then can he realize how silly he looks in a hat or begging to be photographed? Or are we over-anthropomorphizing?

-- Karen in Carlsbad

Matt:

After your scientific report on Project Mickey Schmidt it occurred to me, is there such a thing as dognip?

-- I Prefer Dogs, San Diego

As expected, it was only a matter of time before the doggyphiles checked in. Put down their pooper scoopers and took up pencil and paper. Luckily, dogs' brains are a little more transparent than cats'. And since dogs consider us to be dogs, they talk to us a lot, though sometimes we only hear what we want to. Boondock, f'rinstance. He's saying, "Huh? What? Whazzat? CanIeatit, canIeat it? Pet me! Pet me!" Thoughtful, perceptive Boondock doesn't have a clue, Karen. He knows he's the center of attention, which is good; and you're sticking your hand out like you're giving him a treat, which is good, but this treat doesn't smell, which is not good. Not only can he not recognize himself, he can't even see the photograph very well. He can't begin to appreciate how cute he looks wearing goofy hats. All he knows is that when you pull out the funny box and put it in front of your face, he gets all kinds of attention. Then you get excited and say things like "Good boy, Boondock!" Then he gets excited like it's playtime, and the more he keeps it up, the more attention he gets. All the manipulation is exhausting.

Now go find Boondock and look right into his friendly old doggie face. Note where Boondock's dopey old doggie eyes are. Kinda pointing off to each side, yes? That gives dogs good wide-angle vision but poor ability to focus straight ahead at close range. This makes sense when you consider that dogs are designed to hunt and chase down prey, not to be art critics. And dogs are stimulated by things that move. Waving the picture at him might catch his attention, but a plain old Polaroid held in front of his nose simply has no meaning, assuming he can see it at all. That's especially true since most animals don't see things in detail the way we do. They react to larger forms and big movements, not minutiae like the cute expression you've captured when you took the snapshot.

Putting a flashy multicolored hat on Boondock won't help either. Dogs are capable of distinguishing shades of blue and yellow (everything else looks gray), but color vision isn't very useful to an animal designed to hunt in twilight, so colors aren't natural attractants. In short, there's not a thing about your adorable portraits that Boondock finds interesting. All he knows is, you seem to be having fun, and he wants to join in. You're top dogs in his pack, after all.

Of course, another reason the picture is boring is because it doesn't smell like anything worth eating. So is there something we can dip the photo in that will turn Boondock into a snuffling, mooing, drooling ball of wriggling ecstasy? Is there such a thing as dognip? Well, yes and no. The closest you'll come to getting a dog to approximate a cat's catnip behavior is to present him with some fresh dog poop or horse manure or maybe the guts of some long-dead possum. There's every likelihood he'll want to roll around in it eagerly. Just as we're not too sure about the cat-catnip link, we only have guesses about the dog-smelly stuff connection. One guess is that acquiring the smell and taking it back to the pack is a form of communication with the larger group about what's out there; maybe covering a wild dog's own smell made it easier to sneak up on prey. Who knows. In test situations, dogs will react similarly to sharp scents not historically available in the wild: perfume, tobacco, lemon rind. An interesting observation, but useless in explaining the broader behavior. And no, no, no, we will not launch Project Boondock looking for answers.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Alison Tummond: preventing summer’s silent killer

“Anytime you have a pool, or a bathtub, or a toilet, or a bucket, a child can drown.”

Dear Matt:

The other night when my family and I pondered this question I had a "Eureka." I realized only one guy (and a few elves) would be able to sort this one out. Our family dog, who goes by the name Boondock, is not brilliant but he's incredibly thoughtful and perceptive. Most of all, he is the most photogenic dog in the history of all our family pets. When we show him all his great photos, he gets a funny gleam in his eyes. He puts his ears back and licks his lips bashfully. Is he recognizing himself? Can his vision process what is on a photo? And then can he realize how silly he looks in a hat or begging to be photographed? Or are we over-anthropomorphizing?

-- Karen in Carlsbad

Matt:

After your scientific report on Project Mickey Schmidt it occurred to me, is there such a thing as dognip?

-- I Prefer Dogs, San Diego

As expected, it was only a matter of time before the doggyphiles checked in. Put down their pooper scoopers and took up pencil and paper. Luckily, dogs' brains are a little more transparent than cats'. And since dogs consider us to be dogs, they talk to us a lot, though sometimes we only hear what we want to. Boondock, f'rinstance. He's saying, "Huh? What? Whazzat? CanIeatit, canIeat it? Pet me! Pet me!" Thoughtful, perceptive Boondock doesn't have a clue, Karen. He knows he's the center of attention, which is good; and you're sticking your hand out like you're giving him a treat, which is good, but this treat doesn't smell, which is not good. Not only can he not recognize himself, he can't even see the photograph very well. He can't begin to appreciate how cute he looks wearing goofy hats. All he knows is that when you pull out the funny box and put it in front of your face, he gets all kinds of attention. Then you get excited and say things like "Good boy, Boondock!" Then he gets excited like it's playtime, and the more he keeps it up, the more attention he gets. All the manipulation is exhausting.

Now go find Boondock and look right into his friendly old doggie face. Note where Boondock's dopey old doggie eyes are. Kinda pointing off to each side, yes? That gives dogs good wide-angle vision but poor ability to focus straight ahead at close range. This makes sense when you consider that dogs are designed to hunt and chase down prey, not to be art critics. And dogs are stimulated by things that move. Waving the picture at him might catch his attention, but a plain old Polaroid held in front of his nose simply has no meaning, assuming he can see it at all. That's especially true since most animals don't see things in detail the way we do. They react to larger forms and big movements, not minutiae like the cute expression you've captured when you took the snapshot.

Putting a flashy multicolored hat on Boondock won't help either. Dogs are capable of distinguishing shades of blue and yellow (everything else looks gray), but color vision isn't very useful to an animal designed to hunt in twilight, so colors aren't natural attractants. In short, there's not a thing about your adorable portraits that Boondock finds interesting. All he knows is, you seem to be having fun, and he wants to join in. You're top dogs in his pack, after all.

Of course, another reason the picture is boring is because it doesn't smell like anything worth eating. So is there something we can dip the photo in that will turn Boondock into a snuffling, mooing, drooling ball of wriggling ecstasy? Is there such a thing as dognip? Well, yes and no. The closest you'll come to getting a dog to approximate a cat's catnip behavior is to present him with some fresh dog poop or horse manure or maybe the guts of some long-dead possum. There's every likelihood he'll want to roll around in it eagerly. Just as we're not too sure about the cat-catnip link, we only have guesses about the dog-smelly stuff connection. One guess is that acquiring the smell and taking it back to the pack is a form of communication with the larger group about what's out there; maybe covering a wild dog's own smell made it easier to sneak up on prey. Who knows. In test situations, dogs will react similarly to sharp scents not historically available in the wild: perfume, tobacco, lemon rind. An interesting observation, but useless in explaining the broader behavior. And no, no, no, we will not launch Project Boondock looking for answers.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Corner Chicken spices up East Village

Tajima team embraces San Diego’s hot chicken moment
Next Article

Alison Tummond: preventing summer’s silent killer

“Anytime you have a pool, or a bathtub, or a toilet, or a bucket, a child can drown.”
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close