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Dog Bones

"Puppy Dog Eyes" Are Made For You - Literally

Dogs' ability to raise their eyebrows evolved so they can communicate with us

Lucy looking intentionally adorable, hoping for a belly rub

Photo: B.L. Ochman

You know the way your dog looks at you with raised eyebrows and those heart-melting puppy dog eyes? That's no accident.


Your dog knows that looking intently at you with raised eyebrows will appeal to you. A new study reports that centuries of domestication have radically reshaped dogs' eyebrow anatomy, making their faces—and emotions—easily readable to people.

When meeting a human's gaze, dogs often raise their inner eyebrow muscles to make their eyes look larger and more appealing. They don't do that if your back is turned. And their gray wolf ancestors don't have those eyebrow muscles, according to the University of Portsmouth, UK study.

Dogs Read Your Emotions

The study is the latest example of how 20,000 years of cohabitation has made our pets finely tuned interpreters of human emotion—possibly more so than any other species. Data shows humans are moved by infant-like canine features, known as paedomorphism—and dogs know it.

Julie Kaminsky, the study's leader, writes "... this [eyebrow] movement ... resembles an expression humans produce when sad, so its production in dogs may trigger a nurturing response. We hypothesize that dogs' expressive eyebrows are the result of selection based on humans' preferences."

Source: National Geographic

B.L. Ochman
@b-l-ochman

B.L. Ochman is the human companion of Lucy the Rescue Puppy. She is a professional writer, podcast producer and trusted advisor to brands in verticals from cars to cookies. She's a native New Yorker and lover of Central Park—where dogs can be off-leash until 9 am. She also is a really pretty good swing dancer.

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