Every dog owner knows what it is like to return to a puppy who was waiting for his arrival after a long day at work. By the time the door opens, your best friend is sitting there with an anxious facial expression. Your tail could wave 100 miles per hour, ears pinned back, and its front paws barely be able to stay on the ground as there are braces to jump in and give you a warm welcome.
Is he just excited to see another person in his environment during this experience with your puppy, or is this reaction unique to you as an owner because the dog recognizes your face?
The question arises: can a dog actually recognize human faces?
A study conducted four years ago and published in the journal Animal Behavior found that dogs have the ability to personally recognize the faces of their human owners. In the study, a dog was taken to a sterile room without distractions and toys to excite the animal. The experiment began with the dog owner and another person entering the room, crossing their paths several times in front of the dog, and then leaving the room through two separate doors.
Scientists who tracked the movement of the dog’s head and eyes found that most of the dogs participating in the study turned their gaze to the movement of their owners. When the owner and the other person had left, the dogs were allowed to move freely around the room. Again, the vast majority of dogs moved to the door their owner had gone through and sat in front (or nearby) waiting for their owner to return.
To determine the importance of facial recognition, the scientists asked the owner and another person to repeat their movements in the room and carry a bag over their heads to hide their faces. During this Phase, the dogs involved in the experiment paid less attention to their owners. The movement of the eyes and head of most dogs was random and in many matter the dogs spent the same time observing the movements of both individuals.
The only question that remained when it came to dogs and facial recognition was whether or not they could recognize the faces of their owners if they did not see them personally. Could a dog recognize a simple image of its owner’s face? A new study from December 2013 suggests that dogs can actually recognize their owner’s face in a single image.
The new study on eye movement was carried out at The University Of Helsinki in Finland. The study followed the eye movements of thirty – one participating dogs. The animals received images of human faces as well as faces of other dogs on the screen in front of them. The scientists who conducted the experiment found that dogs would look at the faces of their owners longer than the faces of strangers.
Another less surprising finding from the study found that dogs have the longest time turned their gaze to the faces of other dogs. The thirty-one participants looked for a long time all the images Of other dogs from the same house or not-known dogs as the faces of their human owners. On the other hand, every dog owner knows how fixed their dog becomes when another dog has the courage to walk in the yard, so this fact should not be surprising.