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Research proves 'puppy-dog eyes' were evolved by dogs so they could manipulate us

black bully-type puppy making puppy-dog eyes in front of blue background dog-happy
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We have been aware of it for a while now: the look dogs give us when they would like us to play with them. But did you know ‘the look’ is an actual thing?

By Nick Whittle

Published on the 24/09/2020, 10:00

Scientists at the University of Portsmouth’s Dog Cognition Centre, US, have applied their knowledge of canine anatomy to reveal the amazing truth about ‘puppy eyes’.

Portsmouth researchers conclude that dogs are able to adjust the shape of their eyes by the use of small muscles that control the eyelids. This they do when they lock on to a human and engage in direct eye contact.

They’ve got the look

The study formed the basis of a further investigation of how dogs - unlike wolves - have the ability to engage in reasonably complex facial communication with their human owners.

How much do you know about your dog? Read here to better understand your dog’s behaviour

It is believed the novel dog – the crossover between wolves and domestic dogs – was able to harbour the power of ‘the look’ in order to curry favour with human counterparts, and to better serve themselves when it came to food and shelter.

Nature and nurture

The ability of a dog to use its facial muscles in such a way is not only genetic but also voluntary. The use of facial expressions appears to have survived generations due to positive human interaction. In other words we have reinforced the benefits of facial communication by our own response to a dog’s adoring look!

Researchers at Portsmouth believe the dog’s ability to manipulate human feelings by the use of an expression is an important factor in the meteoric transition of Canis lupus familiaris.

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