Don’t I Know You from Somewhere?

Using only visual cues, dogs can distinguish the faces of other dogs (regardless of breed), dogs from human and other animal faces, according to new research by Dr. Dominique Autier-Dérian at the LEEC and National Veterinary School in Lyon, France. They can even group these canine faces into a single category, despite the wide variation of facial appearance. This ability is especially remarkable since domestic dogs have the largest variety of all animal species.

Science Daily reports that Autier-Derian and his colleagues wanted to find out if this wide diversity would present a cognitive challenge to dogs when they were asked to recognize their own species, and other species using visual cues alone. To do this, the researchers showed nine dog images on a computer screen of the faces of various purebreds and mixed breeds, which simultaneously exposing them the faces of 40 different species of domestic and wild animals, as well as human ones.

The dogs were presented with over 144 pairs of pictures to choose from. The results suggest that dogs can form a visual category of dog faces and group pictures of very different dogs into a single category, despite the diversity in dog breeds. All nine dogs were able to group all the images of dogs within the same category.


Apparatus. a, b: The dog sits in front of the researcher, on a line between the 2 screens. C: When hearing an order, the dog expressed his choice by going to a given screen and putting his paw in front of the chosen image.

So the next time someone wonders aloud -- and they will -- if dogs recognize each other, you can show how smart you are by quoting this study. You’ll seem almost as smart as your dog.

The study is the first of its kind and is published online in the journal Animal Cognition.

Credit: Image courtesy of Springer Science+Business Media