Study: Dogs Can Determine Emotions from Reading Facial Expressions

For those of us who love our dogs like our families, because they are part of our family, are not surprised by the slew of studies released over the last several years talking about how intelligent dogs are, and how they appear to experience emotions such as jealousy.  They can also sense when their humans are happy.

Dog reading human facial expressions.  Pic courtesy  Read more at…al-expressions/

Dog reading human facial expressions. Pic courtesy

In addition, dogs, just like humans can also read facial expressions. For the first time, researchers have found evidence that dogs can gauge our emotions based solely on facial expressions—a major find as no previous study has “convincingly shown” that non-human species have that ability, the researchers write in their study, published in Current Biology.

Earlier studies found dogs could identify a face they knew from one they didn’t, but the latest research suggests they actually recognize emotions, Smithsonian reports. University of Vienna researchers began by training 11 pet dogs to distinguish “picture pairs” in which 15 people made happy and angry faces, cropped to show either the upper or lower portion of the face.

The dogs—including border collies, mixed breeds, a fox terrier, golden retriever, and German shepherd, National Geographic reports—chose an option with their nose on a touchscreen and were rewarded for correct answers.

One group saw only upper photos, the other only lower; some were rewarded for responding to happy faces, and the others to angry. They were then tested on both the other half of the faces used in training as well as an image of the left half of the face, plus upper and lower images of new faces. They were correct “more often than would be expected by random chance in every case,” a press release explains.

However, “we found that dogs for which the happy faces were rewarded learned the discrimination more quickly than dogs for which the angry faces were rewarded,” write the researchers, perhaps because the dogs had been conditioned to steer clear of angry-looking people.

In future trials, the researchers would like to work with puppies, cats, pigs, hand-raised wolves, and dogs with less human contact to see if the ability is learned or congenital.

Thanks to Newser for story contributions.

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Posted by on February 13, 2015. Filed under CRITTER TALK. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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2 Responses to Study: Dogs Can Determine Emotions from Reading Facial Expressions

  1. James Smith Reply

    February 13, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    They could have done an inexpensive poll of dog owners and had the same results.

    • Michael John Scott Reply

      February 13, 2015 at 8:17 pm

      That’s a fact! I’ve known this about my dogs for 40 years 🙂

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