Dogs are man’s best friend and one look from a cute puppy is generally enough to melt anyone’s heart. But do dog’s deliberately change their expressions? You might have thought that puppy eyes were nothing more than a myth but scientists say not. Apparently, dogs do know what they are doing when they give us the eyes.
Scientists at Portsmouth University’s Dog Cognition Centre have discovered that dogs make facial expressions as a direct response to human interaction and affection. They use facial expressions when they are angling for more attention and they know which expressions work.
Dogs Know Which Face to Pull
In the experiments conducted by the Dog Cognition Centre, dogs showed more expressions when they had a human audience. The dogs did not have the same response when seeing food treats. It would appear that our canine friends are sensitive to human interaction and do attempt to communicate their feelings. It is possible that the long relationship between humans and dogs has led to the animals evolving the ability to communicate via facial expressions.
Big Eyes and Raised Eyebrows
The dogs which were tested made their eyes bigger and even raised their eyebrows! Their reactions to people debunked the idea that dogs’ expressions are largely subconscious and related to the way they feel. If you believe that your pet is manipulative with their body language, there’s a fair chance that you are right!
What the researchers have not managed to deduce is whether dogs know that certain expressions look sad or if they have simply learnt that particular looks yield the results they are looking for!
How the Dogs were Tested
The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, involved researchers using a video camera to record the facial movements of 24 dogs during several experiments. The dogs saw a human either facing them or facing away, and presenting a treat and then not offering a treat. When the humans weren’t watching the animals, the dogs’ expressions didn’t change. When people were watching the dogs, test subjects made various facial expressions.
So, that awful pained expression that your pooch adopts when you won’t hand over your dinner is a deliberate act designed to pressure you. Your dog almost certainly knows exactly what it is doing. The only issue up for debate is whether the dog has an innate understanding of what works or whether they perfect their puppy eyes through trial and error.