Posted in: Pet Health By Nancie George, Senior Editor
Published Feb 13, 2015
Dogs can tell the difference between happy and angry human faces, according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology.
Researchers trained 11 dogs to recognize the difference between images of the same person making happy or angry faces. During training, the dogs were shown only the upper or the lower half of human faces (shown in photo, top). After training, the dogs’ ability was tested by showing them different sides of the same or new faces.
Adorably enough, the dogs were able to select the angry or happy faces by touching a picture of it with their noses. The dogs were correct more often than would be expected by random chance in every case, the study reports.
Dogs are the only non-human mammals that can read humans’ moods, according to the study. Our study demonstrates that dogs can distinguish angry and happy expressions in humans, they can tell that these two expressions have different meanings, and they can do this not only for people they know well, but even for faces they have never seen before,” Ludwig Huber, senior author and head of the group at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna’s Messerli Research Institute, says in a statement.
Even though the dogs can tell the difference between the two expressions, researchers aren’t sure what the different meanings are for the dogs. But, Huber adds, “… it appears likely to us that the dogs associate a smiling face with a positive meaning and an angry facial expression with a negative meaning.”
“We can rule out that the dogs simply discriminated [between] the pictures based on a simple salient cue, such as the visibility of teeth,” study author Corsin Müller, an animal behavior researcher at Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, told Fox News.
The dogs that were successful at the trial realized that a smiling mouth meant the same as smiling eyes, and vice versa for an angry mouth and angry eyes, Müller told Fox News.
Dogs may have developed this skill during their domestication by humans, where they were exposed to many human facial expressions, according to the study.
Previous research has looked at whether dogs can distinguish between the emotional expressions of humans, but results were inconclusive. This current study is the first to establish that dogs can tell the difference between happy and angry human faces.
Photo Credit: (1) Anjuli Barber, Messerli Research Institute (2) LM Photo/Getty Images
COMMENTS FROM THE LOVINMYPUP ADMINISTRATOR; I ADORED THE COMMENTS MADE IN THIS ARTICLE. Bella CAN DEFINITELY TELL WHEN I AM HAPPY OR ANGRY BY MY TONE AND FACIAL EXPRESSION. WHEN I AM SMILING SHE COMES OVER TO ME AND WANTS TO CUDDLE. OR SHE RUNS AROUND IN “DOBIE CIRCLES” UNTIL SHE LANDS . ANYONE WHO HAS OWNED A DOBERMAN WILL BE FAMILIAR WITH THE BEHAVIOR. THEY CIRCLE NOSE TO TAIL SEEMS LIKE FOREVER UNTIL THEY ARE READY TO COMMIT TO THE COMMAND. IF SHE DISOBEYS A COMMAND I REPEAT IT FIRST. SHE WILL PROBABLY BARK AR ME (BELLA LIKES TO HAVE THE LAST WORD.) BUT WHEN SHE CONTINUES TO DEFY THE COMMAND AND MY FACIAL EXPRESSIONS CHANGES. IF I BECOME ANGRY AND SHOW MY DISCONTENT, SHE WILL LAY DOWN IN HER SAFE PLACE ON THE LIVING ROOM SOFA. PLEASE KEEP COMING BACK, THERE IS MUCH MORE TO COME! AND DON’T FORGET TO SHARE SOME LOVE WITH YOUR PET TONIGHT. HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!