Dogs Really Do Pull Faces to Communicate With Us, Says New Study

Dogs Really Do Pull Faces to Communicate With Us, Says New Study

Scientists at the University of Portsmouth are the first to find clear evidence that dogs move their faces in direct response to human attention.

The information shouldn't be a surprise.

We already have an inkling, for instance, that domestic cats meow a lot more than their feral counterparts, indicating that they honed the vocalisation as a tool for communicating with humans.

DOGS have been part of human social groups for at least 30,000 years.

"We can now be confident that the production of facial expressions made by dogs are dependent on the attention state of their audience and are not just a result of dogs being excited", Dr Kaminski explains.

Using a specialized facial recognition system for dogs, dubbed DogFACS, researchers concluded that the doggos were more inclined to toss out the "sad puppy eyes" when their human counterpart faced them.

The researchers filmed the dogs and their expressions by placing it in a meter of a human, the latter being of the front, back, attentive or distracted. Perhaps they are just showing emotion without meaning to communicate (just like humans also sometimes do).

This may mean that when your pet is raising an eyebrow, or lowering their jaws, they're doing it deliberately because they're looking at your face.

In the study - which was published in Scientific Reports - dog cognition expert Dr. Juliane Kaminski and a team tested how dogs' facial expressions changed in response to four different factors: a human facing them or turned away from them either with food or without.

Maybe dogs will learn English someday, but until then, we'll have to keep relying on their body language and facial expressions to figure out what they're saying to us.

When Fido looks mournfully at you with his puppy dog eyes, resist.

Here's how the study worked: Researchers had 24 domestic dogs come to the lab. This, Kaminski believes, could be a sign that dogs have developed facial expressions due to domestication. The "eye brow raiser" (puppy dog eyes) and the "tongue show" were the two facial expressions that dogs produced "significantly more of" when a human was orientated towards them.

"Facial expression is often seen as something that is very emotionally driven and is very fixed, and so it isn't something that animals can change depending on their circumstances", said Bridget Waller, professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Portsmouth, and an author of the study. So the jury is still out on whether dogs have cognitive empathy. It found that while dogs might seem excited by the former, they will just get on with eating if the food has actually arrived.

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