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Put On A Happy Face

May 24, 2012

Can dogs pick up on your facial cues during a training session?  According to research conducted in the United Kingdom, the answer is yes.  A study by Dr. Kun Guo and a team of researchers at the University of Lincoln says using a phenomenon called “left-gaze bias,” dogs can read the emotions on human faces in much the same way we do.

The “left-gaze bias” theory says when people meet strangers, their gaze tends to shift to the left to watch the right side of the unfamiliar face, because human faces are lopsided when it comes to displaying emotion – the right side of a human face is more expressive than the left, because of the differences between the two hemispheres of the brain – and moods such as anger, pleasure and fright are expressed more clearly on the right side.

Dr. Guo and his researchers videotaped 17 dogs as they looked at images of human faces, dog faces, monkey faces and inanimate objects.  Analysis of the tapes revealed when dogs were shown human faces, they consistently exhibited “left-gaze bias,” yet when non-human faces were shown, the researchers detected no real reaction from the dogs.  Prior to this study, “left-gaze bias” had never been seen in non-humans.

The study suggests that over thousands of years of domestication, dogs have developed the “left-gaze bias” as a way to gauge our emotions.  So the next time you go into a training session, be sure to wear your “game face”… your canine friends will be watching!

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