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Can My Dog Recognize Me in Pictures?

Can My Dog Recognize Me in Pictures?

We know our dogs can recognize our scent. And we feel a little guilty when we come home after petting a friendly dog we met on the street because we know they can recognize that too. We focus so much on that powerful nose that it can be easy to forget that they see and recognize us visually, too. But can they recognize us in a photo? We looked at research and studies to determine the answer to "can my dog recognize me in a photo?"

 Recognize Me - vet organicsCan My Dog Recognize Me In Pictures?

Photos don’t have scent to accompany them, so would we just look like shapes on a flat surface to our canine companions? The short answer is, yes. Not only can they recognize us, they can recognize other animals they have lived with if we were to show them a picture. However, there are a few exceptions. If we were to wear a hat or hairstyle we never wear in the photograph, Fido might not be able to tell it’s us. Similarly, if we were to wear clothing we wouldn’t normally wear, our canine companions might have trouble picking us out in a picture. The challenge arises when we wear different outfits, or are a significantly different age in the image, because without scent and movement, our pups are relying on common visual cues. Just like children who know what their parents look like at that moment, but might not recognize them in a high school yearbook picture.

 Recognize Me - vet organicsHow Do We Know My Dog Can Recognize Me in Pictures?

Well, the question, "can my dog recognize me in photos" is a little more complex than just showing them the photo and watching their reaction, but the simple answer is that they prefer stimulus and it depends on the dog. There have been studies, all of which have concluded that our dogs can recognize us in pictures, under the right circumstances. In Finland, researchers displayed images of other dogs as well as their guardians to dogs and then tracked their eye movement. It was clear that some people and some dogs were more familiar to them than others. This study helped them discover that dogs do distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar faces. They also discovered that dogs are more likely to hold their gaze on a familiar face for much longer than an unfamiliar one. And they found that dogs will hold their gaze longest on the image of a dog, whether the dog is familiar to them or not. In fact, other research where a dog needs to choose between pictures of people and animals they do and don’t know, dogs correctly chose the face of their guardian 88% of the time. And they correctly chose pictures of animals they knew 88% of the time. Wondering about our feline friends? Turns out, in the same studies, cats only recognize and correctly chose their guardian’s image 55% of the time. They correctly chose the picture of a feline companion, a whopping 91% of the time.

 Recognize Me - vet organics

Can My Dog Recognize Pictures Of Me On Phones & Tablets?

Turns out, a lot more goes into whether a dog can recognize us in a digital photo versus a printed photo. Some dogs have a harder time seeing our faces in digital pictures, but our voices can help them understand that it’s us, if we decide we want to video chat. Size can play a role. When dogs see us on a TV screen, many will look next to and behind the TV to try and find their guardian. This is a good indicator that they recognize us on large digital screens. However, pictures on a phone or tablet is much more difficult for dogs to recognize. Some are still able to identify their guardians, but it seems to depend on the dog. More research is needed about dog vision and other factors like breed and the types of images used. The environment and stumuls also affects a dog’s ability to recognize their companions in a digital image. Some dogs just prefer to look at and interact with images that have stimuli like sound and scent, while others are content to gaze at picture when it’s all that is available. This can explain why some dogs will video chat with their owners and others just aren’t interested.  Recognize Me - vet organics So, for those who are away on vacation or want to check in on Fido while at work, keep in mind that there’s a lot that goes into our pup recognizing us when we aren’t actually present. When answering the question, "can my dog recognize me in photos" there are some limitations. The flickering light of a digital hello, lack of quality audio, and missing scents cues may be enough to deter our canine companions from engaging with us. But giving FaceTime and Skype a few tries won’t hurt anything. And leaving those family photos above the mantel or near our dog’s bedside, might actually be reassuring.
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