Do dogs remember your face? Science says yes

4 Aug 2015

The question of whether dogs remember your face or not has long been asked by dog owners, despite the belief that face memory was only present in humans and primates. Well now, science shows they actually do.

The idea that dogs remember your face has been long debated as to whether its obvious association with an owner is down to actual memory of the owner, or more to do with association of a source of food.

But now, neuroscientist Gregory Berns from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia has made some astounding discoveries as part of the Dog Project to understand the evolutionary development of dogs.

According to, the process of putting a dog into a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner took some time as the dogs needed to be trained to sit in the machine without sedation.

Previously, Berns and his team had determined that the scent emitted by a dog’s owner, rather than another human, played a part in the dog’s ability to remember its owner, but now the fMRI scanner tested the dog’s ability to remember faces over everyday objects.

Dogs are not the best test subject…

To do this, the dogs were shown images and videos, which proved an enormous challenge in itself as of the eight dogs that participated in the study, only six of them were able to actually hold their gaze at the screen for 30 seconds at most, as well as the fact that a dog’s understanding of 2D images is not its strong suit.

Of the six studied, however, evidence showed how their temporal lobe showed much stronger responses to human and dog faces than those of inanimate objects.

Most importantly, the faces that created a neural response were not linked to simple reward association that would be created by a dog who associates a particular face as a source of food.

Speaking of the findings, first author of the study Daniel Dilks, said: “Dogs have been cohabitating with humans for longer than any other animal.

“They are incredibly social, not just with other members of their pack, but across species. Understanding more about canine cognition and perception may tell us more about social cognition and perception in general.”

Dog with owner image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic