A few years back, when Tradewinds Pet Suites was “just a pup,” so to speak, we adopted the tagline “We Speak Dog.” It seemed like a fun, tongue-in-cheek way to underscore our commitment to understanding and accommodating the unique needs and preferences of each of our canine guests.
But a new study suggests that dogs may “speak people,” too, or at least communicate with us better than we thought. It involved 24 dogs – all family pets – of various breeds and ages, and concluded that dogs use more facial expressions when people are looking at them.
The expression researchers noted most often was brow raising – what we in our house call “Muggsy eyes” – which made our black-and-tan miniature dachshund’s eyes appear larger (and pitiful) and pretty much guaranteed that whomever they were turned upon was going to be putty in her paws.
Turns out, we weren’t the only ones who fell prey to brow raising. This technique often elicits an empathetic response from dog owners, according to the researchers, in an article in Scientific Reports.
It’s interesting to note that while the dogs exhibited more facial expressions when people were looking at them, the excitement of seeing food did not elicit a similar response.
“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,” said study leader Juliane Kaminski.
And if you need more evidence that dogs “speak people,” here’s a fun bit of info. In an earlier study, Kaminski and colleagues found that dogs stole food more often when the human’s eyes were closed or they had their back turned.
Hmmmm. We may need to improve our “speak dog” fluency.