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Dogs May Not Really Dig Our Face, According to Research

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When it comes to our face, you may think our dogs are excited to see it, but one research found they just may not be that into us.

A new study shows that when presented with a photo of a human’s head — both of the face and the back side — a dog’s brain activity showed no real interest. On the other hand, if a pooch saw a photo of a dog, their brain lit up. The team believes a dog’s brain isn’t hardwired to care about a person’s face.

The research team had 30 humans and 20 dogs (who were family pets) lay in an MRI machine at the Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary and the National Autonomous University of México, Querétaro, Mexico, (Don’t worry, the dogs were trained extensively for the big day and could leave if they wanted.) Each participant was shown two-second videos: a dog face, the back of a dog’s head, a human face and the back of a human head. The order varied from participant to participant.

The team discovered that in our brains, we are able to distinguish between faces and non-faces, but dogs have no real way of doing so. However, both people and canines do show interest when a member of the same species is displayed, causing a brain region to react.

But don’t fret. Dogs still like looking at our face; it’s just more complicated. Our four-legged friends need more information to get excited, such as our scent, facial expressions, and voice.

Image Credit: Eötvös Loránd University

“I think it is amazing that, despite apparently not having a specialized neural machinery to process faces, dogs nevertheless excel at eye contact, following gaze, reading emotions from our face, and they can even recognize their owner by the face,” Attila Andics of Eötvös Loránd University, told CNN.

Does this mean dogs like other dogs better than humans? Probably not. It more likely has to do with survival, mating or kin recognition.

The study was first published in Journal of Neuroscience