Your pet dog can read your expression

written by Meena Azzollini

Little asian girl kissing a siberian husky puppy on bed

Credit:123RF

Have you ever wondered if your pet dog understands how you feel? Recent studies have shown that dogs process human faces similarly to humans. Living in close contact with humans, dogs have developed unique socio-cognitive skills that enable them to interact and communicate efficiently with humans and understand the emotions behind facial expressions.

The increased heart rate in the dogs indicated that they experienced higher levels of stress on seeing these photographs.

To understand this knowledge even further, researchers from the University of Bari Aldo Moro in Italy conducted a study where 26 domestic dogs of various breeds were presented pictures of human faces expressing the six basic emotions cross-culturally recognised — anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise and disgust. Two men and two women were photographed while expressing the six emotions. In addition, a picture of a neutral expression was taken, where subjects had to relax and look straight ahead. The photos were strategically placed on the side of the dogs’ line of vision.

On analysing the video footage of the dogs’ reactions, the researchers found that the dogs showed a greater response and increased cardiac activity when shown photographs that expressed emotional states such as anger, fear and happiness. The dogs also took longer to resume feeding after seeing these images. The increased heart rate in the dogs indicated that they experienced higher levels of stress on seeing these photographs.

The dogs also tended to turn their heads to the left when they saw human faces expressing anger, fear or happiness. When they saw faces that looked surprised, the dogs turned their heads to the right possibly because dogs view it as a non-threatening and relaxed expression.

The findings of this study suggest that dogs use different parts of their brain when processing basic human emotions. Clearly arousing and negative emotions seem to be processed by the right side of the brain while positive emotions are processed by the left hemisphere. This study reveals that your pet dog is indeed capable of understanding how you feel. And if you can recognise their cues, you will see that your pet dog is emotionally connected to you as well.

Source: Learning & Behavior


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Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!