Research published in the journal of Animal Cognition shows that dogs pick out faces of other dogs, irrespective of breeds, among other faces. They can group them into a category of their own and do so using only visual cues.
The authors of the study have concluded “The fact that dogs are able to recognize their own species visually, and that they have great olfactory discriminative capacities, insures that social behavior and mating between different breeds is still potentially possible. Although humans have stretched the Canis familiaris species to its morphological limits, its biological entity has been preserved.”
The authors of the research explored whether the large range of diversity in the size and shape of dogs presented a ‘cognitive challenge’ to dogs trying to recognize their species, when confronted with other species.
On a computer screen, the researchers showed nine pet dogs pictures of faces from various dog breeds and cross-breeds, and simultaneously faces of other animal species, including human faces. They exposed the dogs to diverse stimuli: images of dog faces; images of non-dog species from 40 different species, including domestic and wild animals; and humans. Overall, the dogs were shown more than 144 pairs of pictures to select from. The authors observed whether the nine dogs could discriminate any type of dog from other species, and could group all dogs together, whatever their breed, into a single category.