It’s difficult for us to resist a touchy flash of puppy dog eyes - and according to a new study, that pulls on the heartstrings might be well why dogs can give us those looks at all. Pets are foolhardy for individual attention and eye contact.
When raised next to people, they begin fighting for our attention when they’re as young as four weeks old. Dog owners convinced that their pup could convey a range of expressions through their eyes now have scientific evidence to back it up.
The wolf is the domestic dog’s closest living relative, so it makes for a truthful point of comparison how we’ve changed our greatest friend. The scientists compared the facial anatomy of several wild gray wolves and six pets, as well as the differences in behavior expressed by ten wolves and 28 shelter dogs.
A team of anatomists at the University of Portsmouth’s Dog Cognition Centre researched two muscles responsible for widening and opening dog’s eyes, making them appear bigger, droopier, and visually more lovely. The levator anguli oculi medialis muscle and the retractor anguli oculi lateralis muscle form two straight, short lines, which combine the ring of muscle around a dog’s eye to either end of the brow above.
The scientists have long been attentive in the ways dogs make eye contact with humans and, in particular, how they move their eyebrows. Juliane Kaminski, the foremost author of the new paper, in 2017 saw that puppies moved their eyebrows more often while a person paid attention to them, and less often when they were ignored or given food. This is a more exciting stimulus for them than personal love. That proposed the movement is voluntary. On our side of these longing glances, experimentation has also shown that when puppies serve these muscles, people respond more extremely.
The same humanlike facial gestures were responsible for enhancing positive responses in humans. Eyebrow-raising is one of the most well-understood examples of what scientists call ostensive cues, a family of nonverbal signals (constantly facial movements and expressions) humans send one another to convey their intention to communicate frankly. Dogs’ miraculous ability to mimic this human expression likely leads us to project certain human emotions onto them in ways we don’t work with other animals, regardless of what they might be feeling.
Centuries of domestication have unintentionally yet radically reshaped dogs eyebrow anatomy, making their faces easily readable to people. Experts have discovered an essential factor that separates wolves from dogs, involving two specific facial muscles that evolved after people tamed them.
Pets also seem to be inspired to establish eye contact with humans at an early age, which could be an indicator of the level of attachment between people and dogs.