Dogs know how to smile, but why they do it: study results
Wide-open eyes, slightly raised corners and protruding tongue. Is it really a smile? The researchers decided to test whether dogs use facial expressions to show their mood in the same way that humans do. The results are very interesting, we invite you to familiarize yourself with them.
How a dog became a man’s friend
The history of domestication of these animals began 3, 000 years ago. Today, pets live next to us in the city, the countryside, in cold or heat. Throughout the centuries of the unique relationship between man and dog, communication has been key. No wonder today this animal is an object for psychological and linguistic research.
“Testing dogs allows us to observe interspecies communication,” explains Alex Benjamin, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of York, UK. “Moreover, this is a special connection with a person. Scientists know that eye contact has always been used in the process of animal domestication,” he continues.
This was confirmed by research published in the journal Modern Biology, which tested how wolves and dogs react when they cannot open a container of food view. The researchers found that wolves, after making several unsuccessful attempts, give up and leave, while the dogs turn to the person and give him a long and penetrating look, as if suggesting that they need help. Dogs know that eye contact is a signal. It was found that such behavior is the result of domestication and close communication over several generations.
It is noteworthy that tactile contact is also important for the animal, for example, those guide pets whose owners cannot see. One of these dogs, Donna, has a longevity memorial in Sydney.
Effect of oxytocin
According to another study, the results of which were published in the magazine “Science”, a person and dogs during close communication increase the level of oxytocin. This is a hormone that plays a significant role in creating social ties. It is noteworthy, the dogs that have been observed by the ejection of oxytocin spent longer than the time, looking at people.
“This is the main mechanism of communication and cooperation, since in the case of dogs there is no possibility of verbal contact,” says Benjamin in an interview with the magazine “Living Science”. “Dogs acquired this ability as a result of domestication. Visual contact is used by them as a way of communication and collecting information. ”
What about mimicry?
“Do dogs have non-verbal expressions, like people? Do they use facial expressions to communicate with us? These are extremely intriguing issues, ”says Juliana Kaminsky, a teacher of psychology at the University of Portusmut, Great Britain.
She noted that it was special for her to see the raised eyebrows of dogs, lowered to the floor, eyes from half-turn. As part of the study, Kaminski and her colleagues visited dog shelter, where they used a special facial coordination system in order to measure the mnemes of local animals when communicating with people. Then the researchers allocated a group of animals that gained new owners. As it turned out, the more often the dogs moved eyebrows, made the so-called “puppy eyes”, the more often they were taken to new houses. According to Kaminsky, no other animal behavior has such a strong influence on a person.
Why did this “facial expression” aroused such a strong response? Scientists are inclined to the idea that this happens at a subconscious level. “The raised eyebrows of dogs resemble the expression on the face that we ourselves do when we are sad, which causes a desire to help and show care,” says Kaminsky.
What else did the researchers find? Dogs used their charm equally, regardless of whether it was required or not. This suggests that the animals have learned to use this “technique” not intentionally.
We tend to anthropomorphize
And finally, the main question is – does the expression of the muzzle have, in which it seems that the dog smiles the same meaning as the human smile? Kaminsky says that one should not be so straightforward in his judgments.
Very few studies have been conducted that confirm the hypothesis that the dogs are smiling. However, it is known for certain that the emotional state of the animal can be determined by the movement of its tail.
As the results of the study, published in the journal “Scientific Reports”, raised corners and ajar mouth most likely indicate that the dog is relaxed. There is no evidence that the dog intends to give you a smile.
Plans for the future
To get an answer to the question about a conscious smile, we need more objective research methods, such as the system of coordination of the face. With its help, it can be determined what a specific expression in a single situation means and how it is motivated.
The reasons for the dog smile
The dog makes a similar expression of the muzzle in such cases:
- A relaxed pose of the pet, closed eyes, slightly raised corners of the lips – all this indicates that the dog is relaxed. This behavior is characteristic of the dogs when they are pleased. Observe the dog and you will see her moments of happiness.
- Sometimes the pet smiles in those cases when the owner himself taught her to this. Through positive contact: praise, affection, laughter, delicious encouragement.
- When the dog is hot, he widens his mouth wide, sticks out his tongue and even covers his eyes, but this is not a smile, despite all the resemblance to her. Most often, such facial expressions are accompanied by heavy breathing.
- Often a grin can be mistaken for a smile, the only difference is that the animal takes a tense pose and growls. This behavior can be provoked by aggression, discontent or some pain, for example, if you have a spider.
If all this time you were sure that your dog smiles at you, then the opinions of scientists on this subject do not have accurate arguments, because our relations with dogs are unique.