Facial expressions of dogs: Scientists have revealed in research that dogs are much more facially expressive when they’re around their human friends than when they’re by themselves or with other dogs, and move their faces as a communication tool rather than to express emotion.
In a new study conducted by the University of Portsmouth, dogs of different breeds were put in a room with a person who was asked to either face the dogs or the opposite direction. While talking to them, the research team realised the dogs were using facial expressions more often when the person was facing them rather than looking away. Raising their eyebrows, sticking out their tongues, and making sounds, all behaviour that suggests the dogs recognised when humans were paying attention to them and were trying to communicate.
“The findings appear to support evidence dogs are sensitive to humans’ attention and that expressions are potentially active attempts to communicate, not simple emotional displays.”
There were two states of human interaction, facing towards the dog, and turning her back to the dog. For each of these, the team tested the dog’s facial expressions with food present and without food present.
The dogs showed far more facial expression when the human was facing them, whether food was present or not.
Dogs and humans have been living together for an estimated 30,000 years, so it’s only natural that over time, we’ve evolved in a way that reflects this strong bond. In the case of dogs, that appears in the form of their facial expressions, that are easier for us to understand.
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