Dogs are man’s best friend, and we’re now actually starting to know our dogs better. So just what do all those cute doggy expressions that we know so well, mean?
Animal behavior professionals in Japan recently released a new dog research study that concludes that certain dog emotions are portrayed by particular facial movements, like raising their eyebrows or cocking their ears.
The researchers used high-speed cameras to record dogs reuniting with their owners. This research states that canines tend to raise their eyebrows upwards around half a second after seeing their owners.
Another observation was that dogs move their left ears back a little when introduced to a person they have never met before. Keep an eye on your dog next time you introduce your dog to a stranger, and see if you can spot this.
According to an article in The Telegraph, Dr Miho Nagasawa, from the department of animal science at Azabu University in Sagamihara, said: “It is difficult to explain this difference in movement between the ears and eyebrows.”
“Dogs’ ears are prominent features used to convey emotional expression, therefore our results suggest that dogs were more cautious toward unfamiliar people.”
“In contrast, eyebrow movement might indicate a visible response whereby dogs attempted to look at their owners more intently.”
The results of the study were published in the journal Behavioural Processes.
The researchers observed 12 dogs in a room that was divided by a partition with curtains that opened briefly to allow the dogs to glimpse what was on the other side, while high-speed cameras tracked their facial expressions.
Coloured stickers were strategically placed on the dogs’ faces. These were easier to pick up on camera when the dog’s expressions altered.
When the curtain opened momentarily, there were four possibilities on the other side: their owner, a stranger, a toy or an item they did not like.
The study found that the dogs moved their eyebrows upwards whenever they saw someone behind the curtain. However, the movement was far greater when they saw their owner. The movement was also more pronounced on the left side.
It is thought that the changes on different sides of the face reflect activity in key parts of the brain that control emotions. Another explanation offered is that the dogs were experiencing conflicting emotions: the joy at seeing their owner versus the sadness of not being able to reach them.