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How Dogs Recognise Human Faces

Ever wonder if your dog can really recognise your face, and the emotions you display? Dogs are extremely good at picking up on emotional cues based on the body language and facial expressions we display. They also appear to be able to sense how we are feeling, and know when we are upset, stressed or angry. New research has found that dogs have a special part of their brain dedicated recognising human faces.

When you come home after a day at work, how does your dog know it’s you that comes through he door and not a stranger? You dog might have learn’t to recognise the sound of your car, and the way that you walk, but they probably also recognise your face. New research by the University of Padua in Italy has found that dogs seem to rely on looking at their owners faces to identify them. The dogs in the study seemed to also favour looking at and following their owners over a stranger. They also found that when the owner covered up their face, the dog had trouble recognising them .

The study required dogs to remain in an empty room, then their owner and a stranger both walked across the room. The researchers then took note of how much the dog looked at each person, and naturally they favoured their owners faces. When the two people left the room, the dogs were given the option of going up to one of the doors. Most dogs chose to go to the door that their owners went through.

This research shows that dogs are very reliant on their owners faces. Another study by the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna found that dogs can distinguish between happy (positive emotion) and angry (negative emotion) faces.

Dogs have learn’t to recognise human emotions over thousands of years of domestication. Canines were first domesticated between 15,000 and 40,000 years ago. Living with humans for so long has resulted in dogs evolving ways to interpret our behaviour, and they have become much better at reading our facial expressions. They may not understand what some of our more complex emotions actually mean, but they can probably distinguish between a negative and positive emotion based on how you face looks.

The next time you come home, or your dog find you in the dog park, pay attention to how much they look at your face. Be aware that when you are really happy they will recognise you happiness, but they will also be able to tell when you are unhappy too. Dogs are amazing creatures, and they certainly deserve their place by our side as man’s best friend.


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