Scientists have discovered that dogs produce more facial movements when a human is paying attention to them - including raising their eyebrows, making their eyes appear bigger - than when they are being ignored or presented with a tasty morsel.
It might seem pretty obvious to dog lovers, but researchers have found scientific evidence suggesting that dogs use facial expressions intentionally to communicate with humans.
The research pushes back against the belief that animal facial expressions are largely unconscious movements, that reflect internal sentiments, rather than a way to communicate.
"This study moves forward what we understand about dog cognition".
The researchers studied 24 family pet dogs of various breeds, aged one to 12.
The recordings were then examined by the team frame by frame to determine changes in the facial muscles of the canines.
"We can not in any way speculate what dogs might "mean" with whatever facial movement they produce", she wrote, adding that it's also unknowable whether the dogs "make eyes" in order to manipulate people.
Whether or not food was present only had a very minor effect on the dogs' expressions, even though food is known to be exciting for dogs.
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The person would then conduct four different poses, the first two would have the person face the dog while displaying food and then not displaying food, and the last two would be facing away from the dog while displaying food and then without food.
The study suggested doggy expressions were not simply the result of internal emotions, but could be a mechanism of communication.
She told National Geographic that the dogs' expressions might be "tapping into" preferences humans have, making the dogs look more infant like and "cute" to human beings. A frame-by-frame comparison of the animals found that they were far more likely to show their tongue and raise eyebrows when they were face-to-face with a person.
"It tells us that their facial expressions are probably responsive to humans - not just to other dogs", said Waller.
"Domestic dogs have a unique history - they have lived alongside humans for 30,000 years and during that time selection pressures seem to have acted on dogs' ability to communicate with us", she said.
Dr. Kaminiski was quick to note that the researchers don't and can't know the dogs' intentions.
"The findings appear to support evidence. that expressions are potentially active attempts to communicate", said study co-author Juliane Kaminski of the University of Portsmouth.