If you have a dog (or love watching YouTube videos of cute pups), then you are probably very familiar with “puppy dog eyes,” that adorable stare that gets you to refill the food bowl, or forget all about the chewed shoes on your living room floor. Dogs are able to make “puppy dog eyes” by raising and lowering their inner eyebrow, causing their eyes to appear wide and more expressive as they make eye contact with you. But are puppy dog eyes something that evolved in dogs with domestication, or can wolves do it as well? Can dogs make puppy dog eyes because of humans?
The answer, at least tentatively, is yes!
As humans, eye contact is core to our communication and social interaction, so we may naturally gravitate towards animals that are able to communicate with us through their eyes, subconsciously selecting for dogs with more expressive faces. Studies support this, suggesting that dogs that use their inner eyebrows more are more likely to get adopted from shelters. When researchers studied a sampling of domesticated dogs and grey wolves, they found that, while their faces looked almost identical, the dogs had two extra muscles around their eyes that helped them move their brows and eyelids! Although we can’t compare our modern dogs to ancient wolves, this research suggests that over 1000s of years of domestication we have given dogs the power to mimic our own eye expressions. This is a fascinating example of how humans can affect the world around us in surprising ways, and I can’t wait to learn more!
Want to learn more? Visit https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/puppy-dog-eyes
July 8, 2019