Your Dog Knows You So Well, But Do They Know Your Face?

Written by: Tori Holmes

February 23, 2016

When we’re away from the people and animals that we love, we keep pictures of them close by for comfort and to remind us of them. Do you think your dog would benefit from a photo memento, too? Would they even recognize you in a picture?

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Under the right circumstances, dogs seem to be able to recognize their owner in a photograph. A study published in the Journal of Vision found that dogs who spent two hours a day with a single handler for six months were able to distinguish between their face and a stranger’s face 88.2% of the time.


This doesn’t mean that dogs will always be able to recognize their owner’s picture though. Researchers have found that if an owner looks dramatically different in a photograph than in real life, their dog will have trouble identifying them. For example, if you have a beard normally, but show your dog a picture of you clean-shaven, the chances that your dog will be able to recognize you is reduced.

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The same issue occurs if part of the owner’s face is covered in the picture. Dogs that are shown a picture of their owners with no obstructions were much more likely to figure out who they were than if they were shown a picture where their owner’s face was partially obstructed.


What’s really cool is that this ability to recognize familiar faces in photographs isn’t just limited to humans. Dogs are able to recognize the faces of their fur-siblings as well! Researchers found that when presented with the face of a familiar dog and an unknown dog, the dog chose the familiar face 85% of the time.

Can dogs recognize animals in pictures?

Despite how well dogs seem to be able to identify people and animals in pictures, we know that vision is not their strongest sense. Knowing this, it makes sense that a dog’s other senses also comes into play when recognizing familiar people. I’m sure it’s no shock to learn that your dog’s smell and hearing also play a big role in their ability to recognize familiar stimuli. This means if you really want your dog to remember who you are, try pairing a picture with a familiar scent or sound. That way, the reminder of you is not just limited to a single sense.

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Next time you head out of town, it might not be a bad idea to leave some pictures of you around for your furbaby. Just make sure that they are forward facing headshots with nothing covering your face. Nothing fancy or artsy; your dog doesn’t care about any of that. Actually, your ever so flattering passport photo might be just the photo for the job! Now who would have ever thought that would be someone’s favorite photo of you?

H/t to Animal Planet

Featured image via @anhelar / Instagram

Written by: Tori Holmes

February 23, 2016