Dogs could distinguish between happy and angry human facial expressions, reveals a new study. Austrian researchers trained a group of 11 dogs to discriminate between images of the same person expressing either happy or angry face. Each dog was shown either the upper or the lower half of the person’s face.
The researchers then investigated whether the pups’ were able to distinguish between human facial expressions. During the testing phase, they used different set of images from those used in training. They found that the dogs were able to pick the happy or angry face by touching a picture of it more often than it occurs by random chance.
Corsin Müller, an animal behavior researcher at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, said that dogs doesn’t discriminate the images based on salient cue such as the visibility of teeth. The study findings suggest that the successful dogs demonstrated that a smiling mouth also means the same expression as smiling eyes. And the rule also extends to an angry face having the similar meaning as angry eyes.
Researchers had also previously attempted to see whether dogs could identify difference between emotional facial expressions of human, but they couldn’t reach any conclusion.
Müller said that the results of their study, inspired by the previous attempts, enables to conclude that at least some dogs can distinguish the differences in human facial expressions.
While the researchers identified the study as the first such evidence of dogs can distinguish between facial expressions of human, animal experts didn’t find the findings surprising.
Ludwig Huber, a study author and comparative cognition expert at the University of Veterinary Medicine, expressed that the bond between humans and dogs is even stronger, with the communication abilities more subtle than so far believed. Huber added that while it requires further research, dogs possibly understand us better than we understand them.