VET’S VIEW: Look at the eyebrows as well as a wagging tail...
NEXT time you’re wondering how your dog is feeling about you, don’t just look at its wagging tail – try to spot more subtle facial clues it might be displaying.
Scientists recently discovered certain canine facial expressions and reactions vary depending on a variety of emotional triggers, when dogs are placed in unfamiliar situations. During the experiment, 12 dogs were positioned on one side of a partition, each able to observe through an opening what was happening on the other side.
Dogs were then presented with either a stranger, dog toy, an item they disliked (nail clippers, for example), or the dog’s owner – seen only when a curtain was pulled back.
Each dog’s reaction on experiencing these emotional stimuli was recorded by special cameras tracking facial movements, ears, eyebrows, and various points on the head.
Results showed that when dogs saw their owners they lifted their eyebrows, especially the left, within a second. They often lifted their eyebrows on seeing any person on the other side of the partition, but the left eyebrow lifted markedly more often when dogs saw their familiar human companion.
When the dogs saw a person they’d never met, their left ear shifted back a bit. No particular eyebrow or ear moved when seeing a toy, but when they saw something they didn’t like, often their right ear would move back slightly.
Dogs’ ears are great at expressing emotions often appearing more cautious towards strangers.
However, eyebrow movement might indicate that dogs look at their owners more intently.
Reading dogs’ faces may come easily to us, because we’ve learned to understand dog emotions over time – probably why humans and dogs have become such good friends!
We’re usually pretty good at reading our dog’s emotions, but when we want to know for sure if they really like us, remember, a little lift of a left eyebrow tells the real story.