Leave it to science to tell us what we already knew about our dogs; yes, they are using those soulful eyes to communicate with us.
According to a research article published in Scientific Reports, almost all mammals produce facial expressions.
For years, we’ve been told by animal psychologists and other scientists that expressions are involuntary manifestations of the animal’s current emotional state and that we as pet owners should not assign human emotion or communication to such looks.
It’s pretty obvious that expressions are tied to emotional states and that dogs will involuntarily display those emotions while interacting with humans to eliciting specific behaviors from us. But what’s not well known is whether dogs are using facial expressions intentionally.
Consider sadness. Dogs and other animals feel sadness, and their expressions reflect that. However, a dog may feel sad but put on a sad face when it knows it’s being watched. In other words, the dog is using its face to communicate with people.
Dogs and people share over 30,000 of co-living and seem to be as made for each other as any of two species ever were. Part of their synergetic relationship with us relies on their ability to read and follow our expressions. It may sound like some fairy tale but consider that dogs have hunted alongside humans for thousands of years. Some ancient bloodlines, like the Basenji, are bark-less dogs who move with amazing stealth. When hunting with humans, the Basenji follows the direction of its master’s gaze and takes orders based on eye movement alone, no sound. If dogs can understand and work with people on such a high level, it only makes sense that they also learned how to communicate in return.
Every dog owner can remember a time when their dog suddenly changed their expression when they noticed their people were watching them from getting caught with your favorite pair of shoes or coming to comfort you with a concerned look when you’re feeling down or ill.
The new study finally opens the discussion on the dog’s cognitive abilities; something almost all pet owners already know.