When he looks up at you with those big puppy dog eyes, do you ever feel like your dog is trying to tell you something? According to a new study out of the U.K.’s University of Portsmouth’s Dog Cognition Center, you may just be right.

In a study of 24 dogs of various breeds, researchers tied each dog to a leash three feet away from a person. The dogs’ faces were filmed throughout a range of exchanges, from the person facing toward the dog, to being distracted with her body turned away from the dog. Throughout the interactions, the dogs’ faces were measured using DogFACS, a coding system that gives a measurement of facial changes.


The study showed that dogs use more facial expressions when humans are looking at them. This is the first study to find clear evidence that dogs change their facial expressions in direct response to human attention.

Moreover, these facial expressions did not appear to be simple emotional displays. For instance, when given food treats, the dogs’ facial expressions did not change unless someone was watching. This finding suggests that the dogs produce facial expressions to communicate, said the researchers.  

“We can now be confident that the production of facial expressions made by dogs are dependent on the attention state of their audience and are not just a result of dogs being excited,” said lead researchers and dog cognition expert Dr. Juliane Kaminski. “The findings appear to support evidence dogs are sensitive to humans’ attention and that expressions are potentially active attempts to communicate, not simple emotional displays.”

The “puppy dog eyes” look—that guilty, sad look dogs achieve by raising their eyebrows and making their eyes appeal larger—was the most commonly observed facial expression. This expression tends to elicit sympathy in humans, which Kaminski believes, may indicate that dogs have developed facial expressions due to domestication.

“Domestic dogs have a unique history—they have lived alongside humans for 30,000 years and during that time selection pressures seem to have acted on dogs’ ability to communicate with us,” said Kaminksi.

In a previous study, Kaminski showed that dogs can tell when a human is paying attention, and are more likely to steal food when humans are distracted. In another study, she found that dogs follow the gaze of a human if the human first established eye contact with the dog.

“This study moves forward what we understand about dog cognition,” said Kaminski. “We now know dogs make more facial expressions when the human is paying attention.”

While dogs are more expressive than most domestic animals, they may not be the only ones to attempt to communicate with humans. A previous study, for instance, shows that domestic cats meow more than feral cats, indicating they use vocalization to communicate.

While Kaminski said that dogs “read human gestures and communicative signals in ways other animals can’t,” she does not know why. The study does not predict whether dogs made faces with the intent of manipulating people. “We do not see what we would call the ‘dinner-table effect,’ dogs trying to produce a ‘super-cute’ fact when the human sees them [and also is] presenting food to them. If dogs produced those facial movements with the intent to manipulate us, that would have been the condition where we might have expected them to do something different, but they didn’t.”  She hopes that future research will reveal the motivations behind the gaze.

The study was published October 19 in the journal Scientific Reports.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Questions continue to be raised about the mental and physical health of President Donald Trump.

Slurred or rambling speech has been caught on camera at MAGA rallies and other presidential events.

Keep reading... Show less
Fox News

The House Judiciary Committee voted Friday morning to bring abuse of power and obstruction of Congress articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the House floor for a full vote.

The Democratic House is expected to vote in favor of the articles as well, officially impeaching Trump and putting him on trial in the Republican Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is already sparking concerns about the trial's fairness with comments he made Thursday night on far-Right Fox News host Sean Hannity's show.

Keep reading... Show less
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images // Win McNamee/Getty Images

South Bend Mayor and 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg got an awkward shoutout from President Donald Trump, who's nicknamed the candidate "Alfred E. Neuman" after the Mad Magazine character.

It happened at the President's recent rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Keep reading... Show less
Mark Wilson/Getty Images // DC Comics

"Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I'm an agent of chaos..."

Heath Ledger's Joker says this in 2008's The Dark Knight but it could also apply to the presidency of Donald Trump. From defying subpoenas, introducing sweeping policy changes to his own staff through tweets, fostering a revolving-door administration, abruptly deserting allies, and, of course, the ceaseless bullying.

The President and the Clown Prince of Crime have both been agents of some degree of chaos.

So it may not come as a surprise that the Joker joins the campaign of a Trump-like character in the latest issue of Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child.

Keep reading... Show less
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote in favor of articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Friday, teeing up a full House vote for next week.

The move comes after weeks of hearings with Republicans shouting in defense of the President and against the efforts to hold him accountable for soliciting foreign assistance in an election.

Keep reading... Show less
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images; Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has some experience with impeachment. While her husband Bill was President, the Independent Counsel investigation led by Ken Starr probed every aspect of her life before and during her time in the White House as well as her husbands.

While Starr failed to find any criminal wrongdoing by the First Lady, he did after his four year investigation discover her husband's extramarital affair with a White House intern.

Keep reading... Show less