Making eye contact with your dog is a delight. You know the feeling as dog owners. You're coming home from work and your dog knows it. They're waiting for you at the door, and once you enter, your pooch's excitement goes from 0 to 100 just at the sight of you. Their tail wags like a helicopter and they're about to take off!
But what do we know about this facetime between dog face and human face? You recognize your pooch but does your pup recognize you from your face alone? The information processing in your dog's mind was picked up through scent, human facial expressions, and different emotional valences, but recognition of the human face is not as prevalent as you might think when it comes to the way your dog sees you.
NBC News covered a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience that gives evidence that dogs don't focus on human faces. They reported, "Hungarian scientists learned that while humans have a specialized brain region that lights up when a face comes into view, dogs do not. Both dogs and humans, however, do have a brain region that sparks when a member of the same species comes into view."
The study conducted reviewed MRI scans of dogs and humans watching videos. They observed changes in the brain's activity of humans when seeing someone's face as opposed to seeing the back of someone's head. Dogs involved in the study, however, showed no differences in reactions.
Based on this, they expand on the study, suggesting that dogs' recognition of their owners is equally distributed between different things: facial expression, (aforementioned) scent, auditory cues, single vocalization, etc. All of these sensory points give dogs a way to read others' emotions which they use to further identify you as dog owners.
As shared by NBC News:
In other words, dogs may notice our faces, and even the expressions on them, but they use all sorts of other information, such as body language and voice cues, to tell what we are up to. Humans, on the other hand, value most what they see on a face.
This might be disheartening news to some, but really, it's a beautiful thing! Think about it. If you had a twin, your dog would be able to identify you as a whole package.
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