Owners agree that it is difficult to fully understand dog behavior, even though we have domesticated them for tens of thousands of years. Many focus on their facial expressions to try to decipher their attitudes. But this is not always easy when the animal’s face has physical characteristics, as a recent study reveals.
Researchers at George Washington University have found that dogs with complex facial markings, that is, those with multi-colored or spotted faces, are less easily understood than those with a smoother appearance. .
Dogs have adapted the way they move their faces to communicate with humans
To arrive at this conclusion, the academics asked the owners of 103 canines, aged over six months, to film their four-legged companions in several situations. They used these video recordings to analyze the animals’ facial expressions using a standardized coding system called the Dog Facial Action Coding System (DogFACS). The participants of the study were also invited to answer a questionnaire where they gave their personal interpretation of their dog’s facial expressions.
This methodology, detailed in an article published in the journal Animals, made it possible to highlight the fact that dogs with “simple” faces are more expressive in the presence of humans than their counterparts with more marked features. They have more pronounced facial expressions and move, for example, their eyebrows or their muzzle more. Scientists believe, however, that these differences are not biological but evolutionary. “Dogs appear to have adapted the way they move their faces in meaningful ways to communicate with humans, independent of the influence of physical characteristics, and they have also developed early social skills to prepare for and facilitate cooperative communication with humans“, they explain in the study.
Is your dog’s face easy to read?
In other words, dogs have modified their behavior in contact with humans. This explains why scientists have noticed that older canines are less demonstrative than their younger counterparts when trying to communicate with their master. In fact, they have to make less effort than them to make themselves understood since they have a longer relationship with their owner. Dogs aren’t the only ones who improve their communication skills over the years. Owners of middle-aged dogs, that is to say aged between two and seven years, are particularly gifted when it comes to understanding the facial expressions of their pet, especially if the latter has an “easy to understand” face. read”.
For Courtney Sexton, lead author of the study, these conclusions will be of interest not only to dog owners but also to anyone in contact with man’s best friend. “As dogs are increasingly integrated into human society, it is important to understand how they communicate with us and how we can better communicate with them (…). Knowing what they are trying to tell us or what they are thinking and feeling can really improve their experience and ours when we are around them” she said in a statement.