Have you ever seen a dog give another dog “puppy eyes?” Probably not, because they only do it around humans.
The researchers aren’t sure if dogs are aware of what they look like when they put on their puppy eyes or if dogs are just making specific facial expressions they know will gain more attention from humans.
Dog cognition expert Dr. Juliane Kaminski explains:
“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.”
Most likely, puppy eyes were a facial expression learned by dogs throughout their domestication with humans, and as time passed, the behavior absorbed into their DNA.
According to Kaminski:
“Domestic dogs have a unique history – they have lived alongside humans for 30,000 years and during that time selection pressures seem to have acted on dogs’ ability to communicate with us. We knew domestic dogs paid attention to how attentive a human is – in a previous study we found, for example, that dogs stole food more often when the human’s eyes were closed or they had their back turned. This study moves forward what we understand about dog cognition. We now know dogs make more facial expressions when the human is paying attention.”
This all goes to show just how smart dogs are. It will be interesting to see how their behavior will evolve after living with humans for another 30,000 years. Too bad we won’t be around to find out, which is a thought that may have the power to make you put on your own puppy eyes.
Do you have a photo of your dog giving you puppy eyes? If so, post it in the comments!
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