In a new study, researchers in Britain monitored dogs’ facial expressions – particularly the muscle that raises the inner part of the eyebrows and makes their eyes look bigger – while a person was either paying attention to them or turned away, sometimes holding food and sometimes not.
The dogs were much more expressive when the person was paying attention, but food didn’t seem to make a difference, according to the study, published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports. The dogs also stuck out their tongues and barked more when they got attention, compared with when they were being ignored or given food.
“This simply shows that dogs produce more (but not different) facial movements when someone is looking at them,” Juliane Kaminski, the study’s lead researcher and a senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth in England, said via email.
This should be good news for any dog lover who fears that Fido only cares because he’s being fed, said Brian Hare, a professor and director of the canine cognition center at Duke University who was not involved in the study.
Hare said the study should also serve as a reminder that humans respond involuntarily to the actions of their pets. Physical features, like the length of their noses and making eye contact, influence how we feel about dogs, he said. “It really mirrors how our interactions occur with our own species.”
That kind of information can be useful, for instance, for screening would-be service dogs and in making decisions about adopting a puppy, he added....Read more