Posted on Sunday, September 8th, 2013
Dogs have a unique ability to endear themselves not only to their owners but strangers as well, and new research has found that a canine’s facial expressions are a very telling indicator of a dog’s overall mood. According to The Telegraph, scientists at Azabu University in Sagamihara, Japan, used high-speed cameras and a series of stimuli to measure how a dog’s eyebrow movement can illustrate specific emotions when a dog sees the faces of their owners or meets a stranger for the first time.
After introducing the dogs to a number of different stimuli, the researchers found that dogs had a habit of moving their left eyebrow upwards after seeing their owners, while their left ears would move slightly when meeting someone new for the first time. Additionally, when dogs were presented with an object they weren’t particularly fond of, like a pair of nail clippers, their right ears moved. While canine eyebrows are known to convey specific emotions, the researchers were amazed to find that ear movements also play an important role in demonstrating a dog’s curiosity, amiability and indifference. “Dogs’ ears are prominent features used to convey emotional expression, therefore our results suggest that dogs were more cautious toward unfamiliar people,” Miho Nagasawa, Ph.D, told the news source. “In contrast, eyebrow movement might indicate a visible response where by dogs attempted to look at their owners more intently.”
Identifying dog emotions.
The research from Azabu University ties in directly with a similar study published in the journal Behavioral Processes, earlier in 2013. Thanks to more than 100,000 years of domestication of dogs by humans, researchers with Walden University in Minneapolis, Minn., found that humans can identify a wide range of emotions just by slight movements in a dog’s facial expressions. Using 50 volunteers and producing a series of photographs with a dog experiencing a range of emotions from happiness to sadness to surprise. The vast majority of volunteers were able to accurately identify which emotion the dog was experiencing, which showcased how effective a dog’s form of emotional communication can be.
While dog owners may have believed it all along, there is a wealth of documented research that showcases just how effective a dog’s emotional response can be when put into a congenial or unfamiliar situation, and just how in tune humans can be with their canine counterparts.
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