There you are. Your pet dog has facial recognition skills much like yours.
It is well-known that faces and eye contact play an important role in the communication between dogs and humans but a new study in which facial recognition of dogs was investigated using images and eye-movement tracking has thrown up surprising results.
Researchers, led by Professor Outi Vainio of the University of Helsinki, tested the dogs’ spontaneous behaviour towards images and measured eye movements while they watched facial images of familiar humans and dogs on a computer screen.
At the same time, the dogs were also shown facial images of dogs and humans that they had not seen before.
Dogs fixed their gaze more often on familiar faces and eyes rather than strange ones. They also looked at images of dogs longer than images of humans, regardless of the familiarity of the faces presented in the images.
To give a twist to the research, part of the images was presented in inverted forms, i.e. upside-down. Dogs viewed upright faces as long as inverted faces, but they gazed more at the eye area of upright faces, just like humans.
The study shows that dogs are able to differentiate between familiar and strange images. This corresponds to a previous study by Dr Vainio’s research group, where it was found that dogs prefer viewing other dogs’ faces over human faces.