Have you noticed that your dog’s eyes sometimes get bigger when she looks at you? Maybe she raises her eyebrows when you speak and cocks her head to the side. A new study has discovered that these doggy “facial expressions” aren’t just unconscious movements from your pet. They are signs that your furry friend is trying to communicate with you.
The study has revealed that dogs produce more facial movements when a human being is looking at them. The dogs studied exhibited fewer facial expressions when they were being ignored or even when they were presented with some tasty food. This all indicates that dogs are intentionally trying to communicate with humans via their cute faces. The findings were published in the journal, Scientific Reports.
Researchers recorded 24 dogs with a video camera and noted their various facial expressions when they were presented with a human, another animal or a tasty bite of food. They then closely examined the footage for changes in their canine subjects’ facial muscles. Their observation of the dogs’ behavior revealed that dogs were far more expressive when they were facing a human. They were, in fact, more likely to stick out their tongues and raise their brows.
Is it Manipulation Or Not?
Scientists wondered whether the dogs used their facial expressions to manipulate their owners into giving them food. But the findings say no. Their theory was that, if the dogs were trying to manipulate humans, they would exhibit the most facial expressions when they were presented with a human and some food. But this didn’t happen.
This all shines a new light on the unique connection that humans can develop with dogs.
“[The research] tells us that their facial expressions are probably responsive to humans – not just to other dogs,” said Bridget Waller, professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Portsmouth and one of the researchers behind the study. “[That] tells us something about how domestication has shaped [dogs], and that it has changed them in order to be more communicative with humans, in a sense.”
This isn’t the first time that communication between humans and canines have been studied in this way. The Guardian reported that a study published last year showed that dogs can understand the words and other nuances of human speech.
Do you think that your dog is trying to manipulate you? Tell us about your weakness for “puppy eyes” in the comments below.
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