Do you ever look at your dog and notice that they keep licking their mouth? It seems like a silly and cute little gesture, but it can actually mean they are stressed out – and it’s a direct response to humans in the room.
In the past, experts thought that this type of licking was a manner of dealing with standard, non-serious stress or even good stress, such as the excitement of a treat or a fun toy. But recent research indicates that dogs actually lick their lips in response to human anger.
In the University of Sao Paulo, a team of animal behavior researchers studied the responses of 17 adult dogs in good health to certain audio and video cues. Videos showed a mix of happy and angry faces from humans and dogs, and they were tested with and without associated audio recordings. The same was done for audio.
The results were clear. Only one specific type of cue made the dogs lick their mouths: a video of an angry human, without the audio. The presenting gender of the human in the videos also did not change the reaction. The dogs would also sometimes lick their mouths when looking at aggressive dogs, but the licking behavior occurred twice as often when the video showed people.
So the next time your dog is licking their mouth a lot, check your own expression and the expressions of others in the room!
Feature Image Source: Pixabay