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Dogs’ Facial Expressions. How Your Dog Manipulates You At His Will

Discover how dogs’ facial expressions, like ‘puppy eyes,’ are active communication attempts influenced by human attention. Study from University of Portsmouth.

Discover how dogs use facial expressions to communicate with humans. Study from University of Portsmouth's Dog Cognition Centre reveals intriguing findings. Dogs' 'puppy eyes' and their impact explained.

Dog’s facial expressions. Did you know that your dog manipulates you at will? Dogs’ facial expressions are more significant when looking at them:

  • Animals produce more facial expressions when humans look at them
  • Scientists from the Dog Cognition Centre at the University of Portsmouth discovered this.
  • They are the first to find evidence that dogs move their faces in response to human attention.
  • They often use eyebrow-raising, which triggers so-called ‘puppy eyes.’
  • This has led researchers to believe that dogs can ‘manipulate’ their owners to their liking when being watched.

According to research from the University of Portsmouth, dogs produce more facial expressions when humans look at them. Scientists at the university’s Dog Cognition Centre are the first to find clear evidence that dogs move their faces in direct response to human attention.

Eyebrow raising, which makes the eyes look bigger – so-called puppy-dog eyes – was the dogs’ most commonly used expression in this research. Dr Juliane Kaminski, an expert in canine cognition who led the study published in Scientific Reports, said: ”We can now be sure that the production of facial expressions by dogs depends on the state of attention of the audience and is not just the result of the dogs’ excitement.

“In our study, dogs produced more expressions when someone looked at them, but seeing a treat did not have the same effect. The results confirm that dogs are sensitive to human attention and that expressions are potentially active communication attempts, not simple emotional displays”. Dr Kaminski pointed out that dogs’ facial expressions may have changed during domestication.

One thing that got me really excited is that we could see that dogs would move their faces more, so show more expression, more facial movement when a person was looking at them.

Dr Juliane Kaminski, Reader in Comparative Psychology

Dogs expressions. How were these results achieved?

Dogs' Facial Expressions: How Human Attention Triggers 'Puppy Eyes' and Communication
Dogs also communicate with facial expressions.

To arrive at these results, the researchers studied 24 dogs of various breeds, aged between 1 and 12. Each dog was tied with a leash one metre away from a person, and the dogs’ faces were filmed during a series of exchanges, from the person oriented toward the dog to the distracted person with their body turned away.

The dogs’ facial expressions were measured using DogFACS, an anatomically-based coding system that provides a reliable and standardised measurement of facial changes related to underlying muscle movement.

Puppy eyes are a facial expression that closely resembles sadness in humans. This may make humans more empathetic towards the dog using this expression. Alternatively, making the dog’s eyes appear larger and more childlike taps into humans’ preference for youthful characteristics.

Regardless of the mechanism, humans are susceptible to this expression in dogs. This is why it can be said that, to a certain extent, dogs go on to ‘manipulate‘ their masters with their faces at will.

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The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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Written by Frenchie Breed

The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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