Research Finds Dogs Can Read Human Emotions Through Facial Expressions


By Deidre Grieves February 16, 2015 at 09:00PM


Have you ever wondered if your dog understands what you’re thinking when you give him a specific look? According to new research published in the journal Current Biology, he actually might.


In a study conducted at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, researchers trained dogs to discern between photos of humans making two different facial expressions — one happy and one angry.


The dogs studied 15 pairs of photographs. The dogs were then put through a series of tests in which they were shown images revealing either the upper, lower, or side half of the same faces.


According to a press release, the dogs were able to select the angry or happy face more often than would be expected by random chance in every case. The research not only shows that dogs can distinguish between happy and angry expressions, but they can transfer what they learn to understand new clues.


The study also revealed that dogs were slower to associate an angry face with a reward, suggesting that the canine participants already had prior experience learning to stay away from people when they look angry.


“Our study demonstrates that dogs can distinguish angry and happy expressions in humans, they can tell that these two expressions have different meanings,” said Ludwig Huber, senior author and head of the group at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna’s Messerli Research Institute , in a statement.


“They can do this not only for people they know well, but even for faces they have never seen before.”

Researchers say that these findings mark the first solid evidence that an animal other than humans can discriminate between emotional expressions in another species.


Image: Anjuli Barber, Messerli Research Institute


I loved this research study.  In my opinion whether or not your furry baby can read and react to a pet parent’s facial expressions depends on the bond between the two  entities.   I have had several pups that were not too close to me but bonded with my late husband.  While I was always working I really did not think about a dogs response to him.  But now that I look back, I did see his bonded pups, react to his expressions and mood.    Bella is my Mobility Service dog and is strongly bonded to me.    I will go one step further than this article and say many dogs can also detect changes in mood or illnesses.   Bella can tell whether or not she is in trouble by my facial expressions.   Recently I was injured in a motor vehicle accident ad was injured .  Bella stayed by my side while I was recuperating. for a solid week.  She was my personal nurse and support to help me heal physically and emotionally.   Great job Bella!.

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