Family & Pets

The science behind dogs being so happy to see you

The science behind dogs being so happy to see you

Does your dog jump with joy every time you walk through the door after a day out? There’s a scientific reason behind their excitement new research shows.

Scientists at Emory University showed dogs images of dog faces, human faces and ordinary objects while scanning dogs’ brains for activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging. They found the dogs’ temporal lobes lit up “significantly more” when shown faces rather than objects, suggesting dogs recognise both human and dog faces.

Facial recognition activates a different part of the brain to the “reward areas” that would be triggered by anticipation of food.

“What we're finding with the imaging work is that dogs love their humans – and not just for food,” researcher and neuroscientist Gregory Berns told io9. “They love the company of humans simply for its own sake.”

Dog lovers everywhere already knew that, but sometimes it’s nice to have confirmation that it’s not just because you provide food. 

“The existence of a face-selective region in temporal dog cortex opens up a whole range of new questions to be answered about their social intelligence,” the researchers said.