Study: Your Dog Really Is Giving You Puppy Dog Eyes

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
We’ve always thought ‘puppy dog eyes’ could get you just about anywhere, and now science backs that up, claiming that your pup really does change facial expressions around you!

It’s no joke…my dogs give me that look and I melt. Yes, they have a look. And now researchers from the University of Portsmouth’s Dog Cognition Center say yours does too, and changes it when they are looking for human attention. The researchers believe that dogs use their facial expressions to communicate with us, and that may be the result of their domestication through the years.

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The researchers found that dogs don’t move their faces much when they are getting treats, perfecting a ‘treat’ look with ‘puppy dog’ eyes in anticipation. In fact, the puppy dog eyes look was the one they most commonly observed as they watched dogs and their expressions in the presence of humans. They also found that dogs tended to extend their tongues to be ‘cute’ as well.

The researchers looked at 24 family dogs of different breeds and different ages. They examined the dogs’ facial expressions were filmed with DogFACS. DogFACS measures even the tiniest movements in facial expressions. They looked at situations in which the human was either paying attention to them or turned away, and whether there was food presented. They found dogs had many more facial movements when humans were paying attention to them than when not, and the food presence didn’t bring much extra movement.

The researchers believe that this shows dogs are sensitive to the attention of humans and their expressions are possible attempts to communicate with their humans. Lead author Juliane Kaminski said that other mammals are known to make facial expressions, but this is the first time dogs are being shown to do it as a possible way to communicate.

They believe that dogs may have developed this ability over the 15,000 years of evolutionary relationship with humans, and we may have even unknowingly bred this ability into them.

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The study didn’t tell whether the dogs are making these faces unconsciously or on purpose, as it could be a deliberate attempt to communicate or just instinctive reaction when humans are around. They also don’t know whether it means dogs actually are aware of what the communication they are putting forth actually means.

But it does show your dog really does have eyes for you, and we are pretty sure the feeling is mutual!

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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