Google Photos can now recognise your pets, such as your dog or cat. It groups them with people.

Woof, Woof! Meoooow! Google has added a barking mad new feature to the Photos app that enables it to recognise your pets in photos. It now groups them into a people and pets group.

The aim of this feature is to make it as easy to find and view photos of your pets as with people. Google Photos recognises your furry friends and groups them with people. You can name your pets like you name people and then you can easily search for them by name.

It is as if facial recognition has been extended to animals. It is also possible to search by breed and instead of searching for 'dog' you could search for 'labrador' and have all photos of labradors displayed for example.

This facial and pet recognition feature is not available to every Photos user, but at the end of this article I show how to enable it if you don’t have it.

Use Face grouping in Google Photos

For the lucky ones that have it, or have used the fix below, open the Google Photos app on your phone and tap Settings. Press Group similar faces. Turn on Face grouping and Show pets with people.

 Google Photos app settings Group similar faces setting in Google Photos app

It can take some time for the Photos app to work its magic, so you might need to leave it for a day or two. Your photos must be scanned for faces and pets before they can be grouped.

When it is ready, you may see a screen like the one below asking which person is you. You might even be asked if a pet is yours and what its name is.

If you return to Settings, there are new options under Group similar faces and you can allow your contacts to recognise your face if you choose to.

 Choose your face in the Google Photos app Group similar facing settings in Google Photos

Go to Albums and there is an automatically generated People album and your pets should show alongside people’s faces.

I have not yet seen any of my pets yet, despite having quite a few pet photos. Can Photos tell a photo of any cat from a photo of your cat? Do you have to appear in a selfie with the pet in order for it to be recognised as yours? I am still experimenting with this trying to get it working.

If your pets are not showing up, try this. Tap a photo of a pet to show it full screen, then press the i at the bottom and enter the pet’s name as a label. Also try taking a selfie of you and your pet, view it and then press i to enter you and your pet’s name.

I took a selfie and fairly soon after, I got a notification from the Assistant in Photos that it had created a Then & Now collage. It had picked an old photo of me and my cat and matched it with a new one. Neither of them had been labelled and Photos had obviously analysed the content and realised that they were similar.

Google Photos creates a Then & Now collage

It is quite impressive the way it matched these two photos because the angles and sizes for the cat are very different.

Suggested shares in Google Photos

You can share photos and albums of photos with friends and the Photos app now suggests shares you might like.

If you take a bunch of photos, a badge appears on the Sharing icon at the bottom of the screen and tapping it shows the group of photos it thinks you should share, plus a list of people you could share them with.

If you like to share lots of photos with people you know, this could be a quick shortcut. After taking lots of photos at an event or a day out, Photos automatically groups them and makes it easy to share them.

Google says that the suggestions are based on previous sharing activity and the people in the photos. So if you have taken photos at an event, like a party or trip, where there are other people that can be identified from your contacts, like family and friends, you will be prompted to share the photos with them.

If you do, the other people my see a notification from Photos to add their photos to the collection. This could be useful for special events like weddings, parties and trips where everyone can contribute their photos.

Before sharing the photo collection, you can review the photos and make changes, and change the people that the photos are shared with.

I haven’t yet seen this feature working with my own photos yet. I took a bunch of screenshots for this article and it prompted me to share them with people. That’s not quite what I want, but it is early days yet and I will see what other suggestions it comes up with.

Unlock facial recognition

All these features rely on facial recognition in the Google Photos app. However, this is not permitted in some parts of the world because of privacy laws and none of these features are available in the UK or EU for example.

There is a way around this limitation and if you have a VPN app on your phone then select a US server. Get NordVPN (affiliate link) for example, and when it is started, it shows a map of the world. Just go to the US and tap the pin to connect to a server. Alternatively, just connect to local Wi-Fi and open Google Photos on your next trip to the US.

Select a server using NordVPN for Android

Open the Photos app on the phone and go to Settings. There is now an option to Group similar faces. Tap it and turn on the switches.

After enabling this feature, it is always enabled, even if you do not use the VPN again. It seems to make a permanent change to the setting and it activates facial recognition.