If You’re Happy & You Know It…Can Your Dog Tell?

Photo Credit: Stock Photo

(ANIMAL BEHAVIOR/ANIMAL SCIENCE) For many dog guardians, the results from a recent study on the emotional awareness of dogs may come as no surprise.

The study, conducted by scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, claims dogs are able to recognize the difference between their guardian’s smiling face and angry face.

Photo Credit: Stock Photo
Thanks to a recent study at the University of Veterinary Medicine, researchers can confirm dogs display emotional awareness. Photo Credit: Stock Photo

This is the first instance where a nonhuman species is proven capable of recognizing and interpreting another species’ emotions.

“We think the dogs in our study could have solved the task only by applying their knowledge of emotional expressions in humans to the unfamiliar pictures we presented to them,” said Corsin Muller of the University of Veterinary Medicine.

Although there have been many studies on this theory, none of which were able to provide convincing evidence.

During this particular study, researchers trained the dogs to discriminate between a human displaying a happy face, and a human displaying an angry face. In each instance, the dogs were only shown pictures of the the lower half of the face.

After using 15 picture pairs, the 11 dogs’ discriminatory abilities were tested. Half of the dogs were given treats for selecting anger and the other have were given treats for selecting happy faces.

Cognitive scientist Ludwig Huber said in a statement, “[Canines] can tell that these two expressions have different meanings, and they can do this not only for people they know well, but even for faces they have never seen before.”

The findings showed that dogs could not only learn to identify facial expressions, but they were also able to transfer what they learned in training to new cues.

These studies continue to provide insight on the incredible bond between humans and man’s best friend, as well as on the emotional lives of all animal species.

— Sabrina Clinkenbeard, exclusive to Global Animal