You are probably able to read dog body language. They don’t really make it too tricky, what with all the tail wagging, smiles, and perked ears. But, as it turns out, your dog can probably tell when you’re happy too. It’s the first sign that any animal other than humans can read the emotional cues on another species’s face, according to Wired magazine.
Ludwig Huber, a researcher at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, recently published a new study that found that dogs can distinguish the difference between happy and angry human faces. Because human and dog body language cues are vastly different in terms of how they look, it can be difficult for different species to recognize one another’s emotional cues.
In the experiment, Huber and his team had pet dogs perform a series of tests that used photographs of happy or angry human faces. Some pictures only had the upper, lower, right or left side showing. The dogs used a touch screen to select certain pictures and were rewarded with a treat. Some were told to pick happy faces and others angry. The dogs who were asked to choose the happy faces learned more quickly.
The dogs performed so well on each type of test that the researchers said these pooches not only can identify emotions but also were able to use this knowledge in context to solve the test. They used what they know about humans to fill in the missing parts of the pictures.
“Because they cannot solve the task with information they extracted or collected during the experiment, they need to recall from their memories some information of how human happy and angry faces look as a whole,” Huber said in a statement. “Only in this way could they have realized that a happy mouth region of human faces comes with, or is associated with, a happy eye region.”
Read dog body language
You may know the basics of dog body language, but nearly every part of their body can tell you something about their mood, from their ears to their tail. Make sure you’re getting the message they’re trying to send.
- Ears – When your dog’s ears are up and pointed, they’re feeling aggressive or on alert. Relaxed ears, on the other hand, are a sign of friendliness or submission. If your dog is scratching their ears incessantly, they may be trying to tell you they have an ear infection. Try some Ear Eaze or Epi Otic Ear Cleanser to help reduce the pain and clear up the ear infection.
- Tails – A wagging tail means a happy dog. A strongly wagging tail means a really happy dog. Most of the time, your pooch’s tail will be relaxed in a natural position. Aside from wagging and relaxed, when dogs get scared they can tuck it between their legs, showing fear or submission.
- Eyes – The larger the eyes, the more alert and possibly scared a dog is. If your pooch is happy or relaxed, their eyes should be smaller and show less character.
- Mouth – While it’s easy to know that a smiling mouth means your dog is happy, their mouths actually can showcase an array of emotions. A scared dog will keep their mouth closed, while a submissive dog may only open it for a lick or two. Dogs show aggression by bearing their teeth. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals explained that, similar to aggression, dogs poke their head forward and expose their lips, not teeth. This may look aggressive, but it’s actually another form of submission.