Today at Springer link I read the abstract of an article from the Animal Cognition journal. It basically says that dogs can recognise their owners' faces.
The experimenters showed dogs a photo of a human just after playing someone's voice. When the owner's voice was followed by the same person's face, the dogs didn't look for as long as they did if the voice and face didn't match. The abstract says:
This suggests that dogs actively generate their internal representation of the owner's face when they hear the owner calling them. This is the first demonstration that nonhuman animals do not merely associate auditory and visual stimuli but also actively generate a visual image from auditory information.
Also, when a stranger's voice was followed by the owner's face, the dogs looked for a longer time. The researchers say:
Generating a particular visual image in response to an unfamiliar voice should be difficult, and any expected images from the voice ought to be more obscure or less well defined than that of the owners. However, our subjects looked longer at the owner's face in Incongruent condition than in Congruent condition. This may indicate that dogs may have predicted that it should not be the owner when they heard the unfamiliar person's voice.
Many discussions about dogs work on the supposition that they are generally wolf-like. I tend towards the belief that they have had such a long association with humans that they can't be fed or trained as if they were just tame wolves. Therefore I was interested to read, in a magazine called Science, another study that suggests that dogs are better than wolves (and better even than the Great Apes, those close relatives of mankind) at reading the communication signals of humans. In the experiment the dogs did better than wolves raised by humans or than chimps on a task where they used human body language to find where food had been hidden.
Probably no surprises there for anyone who lives with a dog, but interesting to see it proven scientifically.