Dogs really might be making faces to get humans to do things for them

Jon Bozak/ Barcroft Images/ Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Your dog really might be trying to tell you something.

Science has found that dogs, contrary to previous advice, may be trying to communicate via facial expressions.

Animal facial expressions have until now been considered inflexible and involuntary displays, reflecting an emotional state rather than active attempts to communicate.

In non-human primates, facial expressions have been shown to be mediated by the presence of an audience, suggesting they may have understanding of whether the expressions can be seen by others.

However, there has been no evidence that facial expressions in other species are produced with similar sensitivity to an audience.

Juliane Kaminski of the UK’s University of Portsmouth and colleagues investigated whether dog facial expressions are modified based on attention from humans.

In their experiments reported in the journal Scientific Reports, 24 domestic dogs of different breeds were presented with four situations where a human was either facing them or turned away, with and without food.

The dogs’ facial responses were recorded using a video camera.

The authors found the dogs produced significantly more facial movements when the demonstrator was facing them than when not, and that the presence of food had no effect.

They say this suggests facial expressions aren’t just an uncontrolled response because the dogs responded more when humans were paying attention.

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