Dogs appear to recognize familiar faces in photos, study says

A recent study at the University of Helsinki shows that dogs might be adept at recognizing familiar human faces - even in photos.

The study, published in the journal Animal Cognition, used eye movement tracking technology to test the facial recognition abilities of 23 pet dogs and eight kennel dogs.

During the study, researchers displayed photographs of familiar and unfamiliar humans and dogs, then tracked how the canine study participants' eyes moved as they examined the photos.

The dogs reportedly examined the faces of familiar humans longer than they did photos of unfamiliar people. They also stared at the faces of other dogs longer than human faces, researchers said.

Participating dogs were also presented with a selection of images where the faces were upside-down. The dogs displayed human-like eye movement as they scanned the inverted photos compared to the upright photos, researchers reported.

"Dogs fixated at the upright faces as long as the inverted faces, but the eye area of upright faces gathered longer total duration and greater relative fixation duration than the eye area of inverted stimuli, regardless of the species (dog or human) shown in the image," researchers reported in the study abstract.

According to researchers, the overall results of the study indicate that dogs - like humans and primates - are capable of facial recognition.

"Dogs are able to see faces in the images and they differentiate familiar and strange faces from each other," researchers reported. "These results indicate that dogs might have facial recognition skills, similar to humans."

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