Have you ever noticed that your pups seem to respond appropriately to your emotions? It seems like fur balls are able to tell when we’re happy, sad, or angry, and are able to help cheer us up when they sense we’re down.
Recent studies have shown that fur balls are skilled at picking up people’s emotions, and there’s even one that says that they may be able to recognize those feelings by studying a person’s facial expression. Well, then, how about people? Can a pup’s Mommy or Daddy correctly interpret their fur ball’s facial expression?
Researches have been attempting to improve the accuracy by which we perceive pups’ expressions by collecting and taxonomizing all the expressions a furry friend’s face can make. This area is known as DogFACS, and research in it has discovered 11 movements of facial muscles and 5 movements of ears in fur ball expressions – that’s 16 independent facial and ear movements, which can also appear together!
Dr. Juliane Kaminski of the University of Portsmouth, who has published the only study that places DogFACS in a real-life context, says that while we might say our pups look sad, guilty, or happy, that’s only from our point of view and not theirs! That’s what DogFACS aims to change.
“As soon as we see there are certain facial movements that we always see in certain contexts, then we can say things like, ‘It’s probably because they’re scared.’ But the problem starts when we follow our own preferences in describing dog behavior,” she says.
In Dr. Kaminski’s study, she and her colleagues filmed 27 pups at a shelter and recorded their interactions with a stranger. They also tracked how quickly each fur ball was adopted. They found that one facial expression correlated with the speed of adoption; it was the raising of a pup’s inner eyebrows, or what we know as puppy-dog eyes.
The pups who made that expression more often in the recorded time were also adopted faster than those who did it less. Fascinating! Dr. Kaminski explained that the look made a fur ball appear sad and in need of protection while enlarging their eyes to make them look more infant-like. It wasn’t hard to see why they were adopted faster!
“So now what we’re looking at is — is this a communicative signal?” she asks. “Do they produce it in any way intentionally — do they produce it to manipulate us?” Along this vein, the researches aim to also investigate the guilty look that fur balls have when they’ve been caught doing something wrong. Are they aware of their wrongdoing, or just responding to their parent’s angry face?
Proper understanding of a pup’s facial expressions can make a difference. For example, a child may mistake a pup’s bared teeth for a smile – and it definitely is nowhere close to one! It’s a complex task to unravel the mysteries of fur ball faces, but for now, Dr. Kaminski has some advice.
“It’s completely fine to follow your intuition. If the bond is there, that’s based on this special relationship and this special history we have with dogs.” Basically, you’re their Mommies and Daddies – you know what’s up! Don’t forget to share these interesting finds!
Feature Image Source: CNN