The pleading look of a dog, with wide eyes, is especially tender.
In a new study, researchers in Britain monitored the facial expressions of the dogs -particularly the muscle that lifts the inside of the eyebrows and makes their eyes appear bigger- while a person was paying attention to them and when they ignored them sometimes holding food and sometimes not.
The dogs were much more expressive when the person was paying attention, but the presence of food does not seem to have made any difference, according to the study, recently published in the journal Scientific Reports. Dogs also stuck out their tongues and barked more when they received attention, compared to times when they were ignored or received food.
This simply shows that dogs produce more (but not different) facial movements when someone looks at them.
It’s a very nice discovery that offers us more evidence of how dogs attract us more with their eyes. Humans evolved to be more sensitive to eye contact and facial expressions that exaggerate that contact. This research shows that facial expressions that we find attractive in dogs only occur when we can see them and not when we are hanging around in the kitchen looking for a prize for them.
This kind of ‘effect at the time of the meal’, when dogs try to look tender because they want something, we do not find it, which means that it did not influence the issue of whether the food was visible or not.
Nor did the food on its own cause an adorable puppy look. Dogs do not seem to produce facial changes as a reflection of being excited.