Have you heard the phrase “puppy dog eyes”? People use that expression when describing someone with a sad soulful look. According to researchers in a report in Scientific American, dogs use their puppy dog eyes expressions deliberately to communicate with their humans. Well, I could have told those researchers that! It’s not an accident that we look into your eyes with that soulful look. We want attention from you and we know the “puppy dog eyes” routine is a success every time!
It’s done with hormones, you know. When we stare at you, and maybe tilt our head just a little (for effect), the hormone oxytocin is released in the human brain, and you can’t help but lavish attention on us. In return, our oxytocin levels spike and we continue to give you the puppy dog eyes of love.
It’s not the same when a human stares at a dog. That stare can trigger a negative response in dog language, and we tend to look away or give some other body language response. Nope, you need the puppy dog eyes, and dogs know just how to do it and use it to our advantage.
These researchers did a study to find out if dogs use their puppy dog eyes intentionally with their humans to communicate. The University of Portsmouth in England recruited 24 dogs of different ages and breeds, all family pets. Then they placed the dogs in different scenarios to see how their facial expressions changed.
First, the human participant faced the dog, remaining still and not stimulating the dog in any fashion. In the second trial, the human stood with his back to the dog, again not moving.
They found that in the trial with the human facing a dog, the dog participant was more expressive, raising eyebrows, giving the puppy dog face. Researchers concluded that the dog’s increased facial movements were a social reaction to the human attention, (rather than an instinctual reaction to excitement). The dog knew how to get more human attention by intentionally using his puppy dog face.
They also performed the same experiment with the human holding a treat. The results were nearly the same: puppy dog eyes = increased human attention.
The study concluded that social interaction with humans is very important to dogs. We are social creatures and we love our humans unconditionally. The most important and enjoyable part of our day is interacting with our human, giving and receiving lots of attention from our human.
Give lots of love and attention to your dogs. We will thrive with it and be the happy dogs that you want to share your life with.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all puppy dogs and their humans!