Listen up, dog lovers! If you think your furry friend is super attuned to your feelings, science says you just might be right.
This doesn’t come as a surprise to a lot of us. My dogs get stressed when I cry, for instance. (The Fault in Our Stars will never be a viable option for doggy movie night. Just saying.) Even though dog people have long believed that their pets are especially empathetic, a new study published in PLoS One by the University of Helsinki provides the “first evidence of emotion-related gaze patterns in a non-primate animal.” What does this mean exactly? Basically, your dog is looking at your face to determine your emotional state.
According to the study, dogs look at human faces, but pay the most attention to the eyes. (They’re the windows to the soul, after all.) When they look at other dogs, though, they look at the whole face rather than the eyes. (We knew there was something to that whole “man’s best friend” expression!) They will also tolerate a threatening look from a human, but not so much from another animal. Dogs tend to look away from an angry human face, whereas they stare longer at a threatening dog’s facial features. (We can just hear them saying “You talking to ME?” to those other dogs. Meanies.)
The study’s lead researcher, Sanni Somppi, says, “The tolerant behavior strategy of dogs toward humans may partially explain the results. Domestication may have equipped dogs with a sensitivity to detect the threat signals of humans and respond to them with pronounced appeasement signals.” In other words, dogs have been hanging out with people for a long time now. They’re our besties, so they know how to calm us down when we’re upset.
Awww. We knew it all along! #bestfriendsforever.
BRB. Staring into my dog’s eyes.
(Image via Shutterstock.)