Our Dogs Really See Us — And They Like What They See

Researchers found that a dog's brain responds more positively when they see human faces than when they see everyday objects.

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Two of the research subjects in a study that suggests dogs like seeing a human face. Via PLOS ONE
Two of the research subjects in a study that suggests dogs like seeing a human face. Via PLOS ONE

A new study on the emotional responses of dogs conducted by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (University of Mexico) shows what many pup lovers have said for years:

They love us… they really, really love us!

The study, published Wednesday in PLOS ONE, involved conducting MRI scans on five Border Collies, one Labrador Retriever and one Golden Retriever from families who live near the public research university in Mexico City to see how they would respond to humans versus everyday objects.

Mexico City area dogs take part in the study published this month. Via PLOS ONE

Mexico City area dogs take part in the study published this month. Via PLOS ONE

After the dogs were trained to be comfortable and sit unrestrained in the MRI scanner, researchers tested the pets’ emotional responses by showing them 50 images of different humans along with 50 images of inanimate objects.

The researchers found that after the dogs were shown pics of human faces, their temporal cortex — the part of the brain unique to mammals, which is involved in the high-level visual processing of complex stimuli — lit up with activity. In short, researchers said this suggests dogs process faces much like us humans do.

A sample from the study: "Our Faces in the Dog's Brain: Functional Imaging Reveals Temporal Cortex Activation during Perception of Human Faces." Via PLOS ONE

A sample from the study: “Our Faces in the Dog’s Brain: Functional Imaging Reveals Temporal Cortex Activation during Perception of Human Faces.” Via PLOS ONE

When shown the non-human objects, less activity showed up. Researchers said they think that this part of the brain is engaged in reward processing, which suggests that when canines see a human face they find it “intrinsically more rewarding than the sight of an object.”

Well that makes sense. So the next time your dog greets you when you come home, know their heart — or least brain — is really into you.

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