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Science confirms that your dog really can read your facial expressions

Rosie Hallam/Getty Images

Sad or happy?

Is it time for a walk?

There’s been a long debate over whether dogs can read the facial expressions of their human masters or not.

Now researchers say dog brains process information in a remarkably similar way to humans.

To find out, seven dogs were trained so they’d be comfortable in an MRI brain scanner.

The scientists watched as several brain regions lit up when the dogs were shown pictures of human faces, including the bilateral temporal cortex, known to be involved in recognising human faces in people and other primates.

Dogs in the experiment. Image: PLOS One

Apparently dogs gather a lot of detail from a just glimpse.

The researchers say dogs have a remarkable ability to pick up small but important signals in a human face, including emotional state.

And they use this information to modify their behaviour.

“Dogs have a rich social relationship with humans,” the researchers write in the journal PLOS One. “One fundamental aspect of it is how dogs pay close attention to human faces in order to guide their behaviour, for example, by recognising their owner and his/her emotional state using visual cues.”

Dogs prefer to ask for food from a human with whom they can establish eye contact.

Sheep, when they have close and regular contact with people, also have an ability to discriminate between two human faces but not a dog’s ability to gather a lot of information.

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