Video calls are one of the best modern luxuries for keeping in touch with both humans and animals. But does your dog know it’s you on the other side of the iPad? A study published in the journal Animal Cognition, revealed that dogs are capable of facial recognition. However, they get confused when viewing moving images on a screen. The reason for their puzzlement can be attributed to what is known as “flicker sensitivity.”
Flicker sensitivity is the rate at which an animal’s eye can perceive motion and retain images. Dogs have a higher flicker sensitivity than humans. When you watch a video or Facetime on a phone or tablet, a momentary increase or decrease in brightness occurs as the image passes through your eye’s visual receptors and your brain can identify the objects in frame.
Since dogs have a higher flicker sensitivity, they can’t distinguish specific images amongst the constant changes in brightness and movement happening virtually. For your pup, Zoom just looks like a lot of random shapes and lights. Dogs’ eyesight evolved for hunting so they have strong peripheral vision and are better at discerning movement from long distances. A study in Animal Behavior revealed that dogs can absorb visual information at least 25% faster than humans, which means they’re excellent at detecting motion but they struggle identifying moving images on a screen.
However some dogs can recognize faces on a screen, but it depends on the size of the device. A large, high-definition TV is more likely to render some semblance of recognition from your furry friend as opposed to an iphone, where the images are more compressed. While your dog may have a hard time recognizing what’s on screen, they can recognize your voice. Studies show that dogs can identify individual voices and additionally, are more responsive to the tone of voice than specific words. Regardless, as with images, sound on these devices is also compressed. So even the best-hearing dogs can get confused depending on sound and screen quality. Be on the lookout for one of those adorable head tilts, which are a sign they’re trying to hear you better.
With everything taken into consideration, most dogs likely can’t recognize faces on smartphones and tablets. But that’s no reason to skip the puppy zoom-chats all together. Video calls are harmless and your dog might recognize the comforting sweet nothings of your voice. Not to mention, it’s pretty incredible that we’re able to watch our pets be adorable even when miles apart from each other.