Study Finds Dogs Can Read Faces of Humans

According to a study, dogs can read facial expressions of humans, just like people do. They check whether a threatening expression comes from a human or another dog before deciding how to act.

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Researchers tracked dogs eye gazing

The team of researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland discovered that dogs appeared to look longer at threatening faces of other dogs, but appeared to look away from threatening faces of human.

Researcher Sanni Somppi said in a university news release:

“The tolerant behaviour strategy of dogs toward humans may partly explain the results. Domestication may have equipped dogs with a sensitivity to perceive the threat signals of humans and respond to them with pacification signals.”

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The researchers used eye gaze tracking to determine how 31 dogs from 13 breeds viewed the facial expressions of other dogs and of people.

The dogs first looked at the eyes and typically lingered there longer than at the nose or mouth. Dog- or human-specific characteristics of certain facial expressions attracted their attention – such as the mouths of threatening dogs. However, the dogs appeared to use the whole face to assess facial expressions.

The researchers said the first evidence of emotion-related gaze patterns in a non-primate animal. Dogs have always paid close attention to threatening faces, likely because being able to detect and avoid threats helped dogs survive as they evolved.

The study was published online in the journal PLoS One.



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