We know that dogs are incredibly attuned to us and that they study our face and body language constantly. But new research shows that a dog's connection to its owner may be more powerful and complex than originally thought.
A new study out of Finland tested dogs to see if they could recognize an image of their owner's face. Researchers tracked the dogs' eye movements while pictures of both humans and other dogs were displayed on a screen. Some of the images were people or dogs familiar to the subject; others were unfamiliar.
The researchers were able to deduce that dogs are in fact able to distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar faces. They also found that dogs were more likely to hold their gaze longer on a familiar face, but held their gaze longest when looking at an image of another dog, regardless of whether or not the dog was familiar to them.
So what can we as dog professionals or dog lovers take away from this revealing, although not particularly surprising, research? We have an incredible opportunity to take advantage of our dogs' keen perception of the world around them and channel it into positive learning and training experiences. The days of pain and intimidation in training are out. Dogs are highly sensitive, intelligent, and focused on us. There is simply no need to bully or instill fear in any vulnerable being, especially a species that is so attuned to us that they are able to recognize an image of our face.