Puppy dog eyes: how dogs evolved to be liked more by humans

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Humans have very diverse facial expressions that help us communicate. We can tell by the body language, facial expressions or tone of voice when someone feels a certain emotion. For example, anger is an easy emotion that humans identify quickly. When someone frowns or scowls, raises their voice and appears restless (repetitive motion of the arms, going back and forth etc.), it’s obvious they may be angry or annoyed. Similarly, when a dog looks up to a human and appears innocent, obedient by making puppy dog eyes, communication happens. This is how dogs evolved to be liked more by humans.

Raising the eyebrows

Dogs have evolved special muscle structure around the eyebrows and eyes, allowing them to raise their eyebrows and make their eyes look bigger. Humans easily read dogs’ facial expressions. Although dogs are not as expressive as humans are, it’s still quite impressive. This specific raising of the eyebrows makes dogs look obedient and innocent. Even in humans, eyebrow movement is very important to deciphering facial expressions. Puppy dog eyes are no exceptions. They definitely aid in the communication between man and dog.

Dogs might have evolved to make their eyes look bigger because of the so-called baby schema. It’s a theory that supposes humans react emotionally strongly to beings that resemble human infants. Therefore, humans will perceive anything that has big, round eyes, soft, rounded features, a small nose with a small or proportionate mouth as cute.

Reading humans’ facial expressions

Besides puppy dog eyes that tug at the heart strings of humans, dogs can read humans’ facial expressions as well. They outperform even primates when it comes to decoding facial expressions. A dog will look at your face and be able to easily distinguish your happy face and your sad face. Depending on the dog and the bond between owner and dog, it might become sensitive to different changes in mood.  It’s no surprise when your beloved dog comes running if you feel down!

Therefore, this is how dogs evolved to be liked more by humans. They evolved puppy dog eyes and refined their ability to read humans’ facial expressions as well. This kind of mutual understanding is a big factor in how well our two species go along. Hopefully humans become better at understanding animal body language as well, knowing it’s a difficult barrier to overcome.

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