DOGS give their ‘puppy dog eyes’ look deliberately to communicate with humans – not just to get food – scientists in Portsmouth have claimed.
Researchers at the University of Portsmouth’s Dog Cognition Centre say they are the first to find clear evidence that dogs move their faces in direct response to human attention.
Dr Juliane Kaminski, who led the study published in Scientific Reports, said: ‘We can now be confident that the production of facial expressions made by dogs are dependent on the attention state of their audience and are not just a result of dogs being excited.
‘In our study they produced far more expressions when someone was watching, but seeing food treats did not have the same effect.
‘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.’
Dr Kaminski said previously it was thought animal expressions were involuntary and dependent on the individual’s mood rather than being a response to their audience.
She suggested that dogs’ facial expressions might have changed as part of the process of becoming domesticated.
Researchers studied 24 family pets, with each tied by a lead a metre away from a person. Their faces were filmed throughout a range of interactions, from the person facing the dog to being distracted and turned away with cameras recording the dogs’ facial expressions.