Do Dogs Recognize Faces?

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If you're a dog lover, you've probably wondered at some point whether the dogs in your life recognize you. We've got good news for you: Research suggests that yes, dogs do recognize our faces.

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Though this may seem like a "duh" answer, it's something we haven't always known. Dogs use their nose as their primary mode of gathering information; it's why they sniff our crotches and other dogs' butts. Canines are much better at smelling than they are at seeing. So it's a little surprising that studies have shown that dogs are actually pretty good at recognizing human faces, even in photos.

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In one study, researchers found that photos of people "activated areas of dogs' temporal lobe, an area in the brain associated with facial recognition and perception," according to Psychology Today. The study also found that brain regions associated with rewards and emotions were more active when the dogs viewed people's faces than when they viewed objects.

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These interesting findings add to what we already knew: That dogs are uniquely social animals with the ability to communicate with humans in ways that most animals cannot. Dogs even know when we're smiling and when we're not. Veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker points out that until very recently, we thought only humans and other primates possessed the ability to recognize facial features. It's pretty extraordinary that dogs are able to interpret the facial features and expressions of a species so different from them.


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Dogs' ability to recognize human faces is part of what makes them such uniquely compelling companions. So when you go home to your dog today, give her an extra hug for being so astute.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.