From Fido to Fedora to Felix the Great, we put a lot of effort into finding the perfect name for our pooches. You'll be calling out your dog's name telling him to come or go or roll over (or to stop eating your bacon) for years to come! But, what about your name? Our pups would surely greet us by name if they could but, do they even know our names? Do dogs recognize human names?
Does your dog know who you are?
Of course that pup of yours loves you and can't wait to smother you with kisses when you get home from work. But does your dog really know who you are? Can he differentiate you from others? The short answer is: yes, of course! Researchers found that even though dogs have a stronger sense of smell than they do sight, they can recognize faces! According to Psychology Today, photos of people can activate areas of a dog's temporal lobe, an area of the brain associated with facial recognition and perception. So even when you're not around, your dog still knows who you are. Just leave your photo by his water bowl, and he can spend time with you all day! He'll know it's you.
What your dog knows about you.
Beyond recognizing your face, your dog knows a lot about you. Maybe above all else, he knows your scent. A trained trailing dog can follow a stranger's scent for miles and can differentiate that scent from the smell of others.
WOOF: Do Dogs Recognize Faces?
Your dog recognizes your scent even when you're not around. A study published in Behavioral Processes showed that dogs not only remember their humans' scent but get excited to take a whiff of their human above anything else.
Scientists trained a group of dogs to sit while in an MRI machine and then recorded their brain activity after they were presented with several scents: the scents of a strange dog, a dog with whom they lived, a strange person, and a person with whom they lived. The scents of the owners were excluded, as they were needed to keep the dogs still. Sure enough, the dogs exhibited the greatest amount of brain activity for people with whom they lived than for any other scent.
Your dog knows your face and your scent and most importantly, he knows that you love him! Dogs are such social creatures and great at picking up clues. They take signals from our behavior and even our inflections, letting them know they are truly loved. Dr. Brian Hare explained to People Magazine that, "Dogs and humans have a very special relationship, where dogs have actually hijacked the human oxytocin bonding pathway that is normally reserved for our babies. When you stare at your dog, both your oxytocin levels go up, the same as when you pet them and play with them."
The love and joy that you feel while spending time with your pup is mutual on an emotional (and chemical) level and you both know it. Dogs for the win!
The list of things that your dog knows about you is truly endless. Studies have shown that dogs can perceive:
Do dogs know human names?
We know what you're thinking: Alright, I love my dog, my dog knows and loves me back, got it. But what about my name? Does my dog know my name? Let's take a look, shall we?
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The truth is, we humans use each other's names so often that it is only natural that a dog would notice that certain words go with certain people. Anecdotal evidence will show that dogs show excitement when they hear their human's name, even if that human is not present. Beyond human names, dogs (some breeds more than others) can associate nouns with objects. You can train your dog to "fetch the ball" and he will know what the ball is. Same goes for "Sit with, Billy." He will know who Billy is. You can train your dog to associate names with certain people. Chances are he will learn this naturally if he repeatedly hears that name being associated with a specific person.
How do dogs learn names?
Dogs learn human names the sae way babies and small children do, by hearing adults use these names continuously. If you are the only human living with your dog, he is less likely to know your name because he's not hearing it called out repeatedly (unless you have a chatty parrot, of course). Once your dog is living with you and others for a while, he will learn that certain sounds or "names" are associated with specific people. If you want to be extra sure your pup knows you by name, you can always train him.
How to train your dog to recognize your name.
Like with most training, you want to start early. You can teach an old dog new tricks but let's be honest, it's easier with the younger guys.
In the early stages of training you can play a game called Family Circle. Gather everyone living in the household along with your dog. One person will say, for example, "Where's Karen?" Karen will then call the dog to come, and if he does, he gets a treat or a different positive reinforcement. Then Karen will say, "Where's Rich?" Rich will call the dog to come, and if he does, he will get another treat.
Family Circle is best played with three or more people so your dog will actually learn names and not just go to the person who's not saying "Where's..." in order to get a prize. This is a great game that gives your dog lots of physical and mental stimulation (without you having to move around) and treats!
Your dog is one of the most social animals on the planet. He learns from your behaviors and actions and adapts accordingly. He knows so much about you and loves every bit. The next time you hear him barking, know that he may be trying to say your name because he definitely knows that too.