Researchers at the University of Helsinki have been testing dogs to see if they can recognise faces in images and, more specifically, whether the dogs have a different response to the images of strangers vs those people who are familiar to them.
The eye movements of the dogs were measured while they watched facial images of familiar humans and dogs (e.g. the dog’s owner and another dog from the same household) being displayed on the computer screen. As a comparison, the dogs were shown facial images from dogs and humans that the dogs had never met.
Dogs preferred the faces of those familiar to them.
The results indicate that dogs were able to perceive faces in the images. Dogs looked at images of dogs longer than images of humans, regardless of the familiarity of the faces presented in the images. Dogs scanned the images of familiar faces more thoroughly, too.
The research team concludes that dogs are able to see faces in the images and they differentiate familiar and strange faces from each other. These results indicate that dogs might have facial recognition skills which are similar to humans.