Study finds that dogs may not actually be able to recognise faces

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A study has found that pet dogs may not actually be able to recognise their owners faces.

According to the study run by a team from Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary, dogs do not respond specifically to human faces.

To come to their conclusions, researchers monitored the brain activity of dogs using an MRI scanner as the animals watched two-second video clips that showed the fronts and backs of human heads.

The research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, was done by a team of Hungary- and Mexico-based researchers, who were looking to compare the difference between how dog and human brains process visual information.


(Image credit: Getty Images)

“The two species differ in their visual communication and this is reflected in their brains,” explained Dr Attila Andics, co-author of the study and a research fellow at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest.

“We found no dog brain regions which seemed to be tuned to care about faces,” continued Dr Attila. “We think dogs do care about faces, actually — that they’ve learnt to care about them. But, unlike in people, we don’t see a specialised ‘face recognition’ brain region.”

Commenting on how pet pooches seem to be so in tune with their owners’ feelings, Dr Attila went on, “It’s amazing dogs do so well when it comes to reading emotions and identify from faces, despite the fact that they seem not to have a brain designed for having a focus on [them]”.


(Image credit: Getty Images)

“Our new brain imaging study does not suggest dogs would not be able to recognize their owners' faces,” added Dr Atilla. “What it shows is that dogs, unlike humans, do not have specialized brain regions to process faces.”

''We recognize our own car or phone, while we most probably do not have a highly specialized brain region to process cars or phones,” explained Dr Atilla.

“This is probably similar with dogs, who learnt that humans and also human faces are important, and so they pay attention, learn about faces and with experience they get better.”

Aleesha Badkar
Aleesha Badkar

Aleesha is digital shopping writer at woman&home—so whether you're looking for beauty, fashion, health or home buys, she knows all the best places to splash your cash. She earned an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London in 2017 after graduating from University of Leeds in 2014 with a BA in English and Spanish (which took her to Madrid for a Rioja- and tapas-packed year). Aleesha has worked for woman&home since 2019, when she joined the team as their digital news writer. A year on the news team gained her quick and reactive writing skills and a love for breaking stories, invaluable insight into where to get the best lifestyle releases first, an AOP awards nomination and the nickname ‘crazy watch lady’ after she stalked the royals via breaking news alerts on her Apple Watch.

Before joining the woman&home team, Aleesha wrote for their sister site GoodtoKnow, where she covered celebrity news, health advice and where to snap up the cheapest lifestyle buys. With a background in beauty, Aleesha has also written for Stylist and Women’s Health where she developed an understanding into what makes a stellar product and which brands are worth paying attention to. She never leaves the house without a good slathering of SPF and is always on the hunt for new lipsticks to add to her ‘Lipstick of the Day’ Instagram story highlight (and color-coordinated collection).

But it’s not just beauty buys Aleesha can help you with. Social media savviness, strong PR relationships and a need to stay in the know mean she’s all about the latest fashions, clever gadgets and reliable lifestyle buys too. She loves indulging in an interior craze (with a bedroom drowned in prints, plants and pink), is a regular visitor to the Missoma and Edge of Ember 'New In' pages and can’t resist the allure of a kitchen gadget—just ask her three coffee machines. Being a product specialist on a brand for bold women (and living the single life) means that Aleesha also knows a thing or two about the must-buy sex toys, so she relishes in unleashing her inner Carrie Bradshaw on our sex & relationships pages.

When she’s not playing around with new products and testing anything she can get her hands on, Aleesha spends most of her time with her head in a current bestseller, catching up on the latest Netflix craze with her sister, trying out new recipes, drinking wine with her bestie and (in non-COVID times) has been known to be a bit of a jetsetter amongst her friendship group.

Follow her latest shopping & lifestyle advice, beauty insights and social antics on Instagram at @aleeshabadkar.

Twitter: @aleeshabadkar

LinkedIn: aleesha-badkar