Why are dogs considered man’s best friend? Besides the loyalty and cuteness, perhaps it’s because they read and respond to human emotion just as our friends and acquaintances do.
According to the Utah People’s Post, a recent study at the University of Helsinki in Finland reveals that dogs pay extra attention to our facial expressions, and are able to tell from that alone when we are pleased with them or angry at them. While they tend to focus on the whole face, extra attention is set on the eyes.
Published in PLOS One, the team of researchers observed 31 dogs from 13 different breeds and how they responded to looking at pictures of other dogs and humans with various facial expressions. Each dog would look the subject in the eye first before examining the whole face.
And while results remained consistent a change occurred when a dog was shown a picture of a human with an angry expression. All 31 dogs would avert their eyes, whereas if they were shown a picture of an angry dog they would continue to stare them down.
I4U News reports that dogs developed this keen response to emotional signals as they evolved alongside humans. After being domesticated they honed this ability in order to combat confrontation and conflict.
“The tolerant behavior strategy of dogs towards humans may partially explain the results,” said Sanni Somppi, one of the researchers from Helsinki. “Domestication may have equipped dogs with a sensitivity to detect the threat signals of humans and respond them with pronounced appeasement signals.”