Contributed by Marielle Grenade-Willis
The University of Portsmouth has published a new finding that dogs exhibit more and varied facial expressions when interacting directly with humans. Facial expression is a key ingredient for cohesive social interaction as well as communication, as the act of mirroring, mimicking someone’s facial expression or body language, helps build rapport and empathy between individuals. In the case of this study on dogs, lead scientist Dr. Juliane Kaminski, states: “We can now be confident that the production of facial expressions made by dogs are dependent on the attention state of their audience and are not just a result of dogs being excited. In our study they produced far more expressions when someone was watching, but seeing food treats did not have the same effect.” Eye contact seems to be a key ingredient for communication between dogs and their human cohorts. A dog’s facial expression displayed as a means of establishing communication is a perfect example of a nonhuman animal acting upon his or her capabilities of senses, imagination, and thought, emotions, and affiliation.