If you feel like your pooch always pulls those hard-to-resist puppy dog eyes when you’re around, you’re not wrong. According to a recent study, this change in your pup’s facial expressions could be a sign that Fido is trying to communicate with you.
For more than 30,000 years, dogs and humans have coexisted together. Research shows that during that time, dogs have evolved differently than their relatives — such as wolves — and are constantly watching us and monitoring our gestures and behaviors. For example, when you compare dogs and wolves, our furry friends are more likely to look up at our faces.
“Dogs read human gestures and communicative signals in ways other animals can’t,” study leader Juliane Kaminski, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth in England, told National Geographic. To get a better idea of how dogs are using their facial expressions to communicate with us, Kaminski and her team tested 24 family dogs to see how they would react to four different scenarios.
The researchers took each dog individually and put him or her in a room with a stranger. The person in the room then moved through the four positions: The human faced the dog and held out a treat, the human faced the dog without a treat, the human turned away from the dog and held out a treat, and the human turned away from the dog without a treat.
Kaminski and her team found that the dogs produced more facial expressions when the person in the room was attentive (i.e. facing the dog). In particular, dogs expressed AU 101, which is basically the scientific name for what we know as puppy dog eyes.
Though Kaminski and her team say they cannot be sure whether dogs are producing these facial expressions with the intent of manipulating us (perhaps into giving them food), we’re pretty sure our pets have learned all the tricks in the book when it comes to getting us to give them treats. When they give us those big, sad eyes, we can’t help but turn into a big pile of mush.