8 August 2022
Did you know your dog is manipulating you? Dogs’ eyes could be evolution’s way of influencing your feelings when they seem to be saying something or demanding your attention.
Newer research shows that canine expressions appeal to humans because of an evolutionary anatomical change around their eyes. Dogs have evolved muscles around their eyes, which allow them to make expressions that humans find particularly appealing.
For example, due to a small facial muscle, dog eyes mimic an infant-like expression, which triggers a nurturing response in humans. Domesticated dogs could bond with humans due to such “puppy eyes.”
Expressive eyebrows allow dogs to create the illusion of human-like communication. When dogs make this muscle movement, their eyes appear larger, more infant-like, and resemble those of sad humans, which compels humans to look after them with more care.
Dogs with such an appealing trait are protected and bred by humans, giving them an evolutionary advantage and reinforcing this change over time. So when dogs were domesticated from wolves, the muscle to raise their inner eyebrows became stronger over time.
This “puppy eyes” expression is more likely to be used by dogs when humans watch them, suggesting that it is a deliberate behavior intended for human consumption.
Evolutionarily, the changes in dogs’ facial muscles were remarkably rapid and could be directly linked to their enhanced social interaction with humans.
It’s a testament to how powerful facial expressions are in social interaction and how vital faces can be in catching our attention.