It is a question that has baffled scientists for centuries. In the last few years, however, researchers have taken canine recognition to a new level. A team of researchers in Boston made it their mission to answer the long-time unanswered question of "How does my dog recognise me?"
If you’ve ever taken a cursory glance at your dog, you may have noticed that on the whole they have an almost human face. They have eyes that can smile, expressive eyebrows and even noses that wrinkle when they smile. The key to why dogs look like this may be to do with their ability to recognise us.
The Boston research team thinks that dogs use facial recognition as their primary way of identifying humans: "When a dog sees a person it does appear that they look at that person’s eyes first.”
But how did these clever researchers actually come to this conclusion? The team wanted to know what happens in a dog’s brain when it recognises its owner or someone it knows.
In order to find this out, the researchers used a form of MRI scanner which scanned the brains of dogs while the dogs were with a group of people, some of whom they knew and some who were strangers. They discovered that when a particular region of the brain known as the caudate nucleus was activated, it always coincided with the dog seeing it’s owner or someone it knew.
The researchers could conclude from this that the caudate nucleus, responsible for thoughts and emotions in the human brain, worked in a similar way in dogs and played a major part in showing that the dog did in fact have the ability to recognise and recall people.
This discovery led to interesting conclusions for humans too, as it shows how humans process their thoughts and emotions when we meet other humans. In the same study, the researchers found that when dogs fail to recognise their owners and instead see a stranger, they show signs of fear.
"We think of our dogs as part of our family, but we are only just beginning to understand how they are able to recognise us with body language, facial expressions and even by the way we smell," said the lead researcher, neuroscientist Gregory Berns from Emory University in Atlanta.
Whether you have a dog or a cat, or just want to find out how your pet reacts to you, these findings will have some interesting implications for your own relationships with your furry family members.
Perhaps these findings will give you some new insight into how your pets actually think and recognise you, as well as providing a better explanation of their behaviour. If you have ever wondered why your pet is so keen to get your attention, the findings from the research explained in this article could give you a better idea.