With their sad puppy dog eyes, it’s easy to see why people find dogs cute and hard to resist.
A new study led by Anne Burrows from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, suggests that the appealing, sad looking (or baby-like) expression of dogs is because of thousands of years of dog domestication.
Human interaction led to the development of facial muscles of dogs that, in turn, help them communicate with humans in regards to asking for food or playing with them. These facial muscles are not well developed on their ancestors, the wolves.
Dogs differ from wolves in many ways — they have shorter snouts, smaller sizes and more expressive faces.
Burrows and her colleagues examined the eye muscles in the cadavers of six dogs and two wolves. The dogs had a meaty eye muscle to lift their eyebrows and make puppy dog eyes. But in wolves, the same muscle was stringy or missing.
The researchers believe dogs, over their relatively short 33,000 years of domestication, used this eye muscle to communicate, possibly goading people to feed or care for them — or at least take them out to play. And people, perhaps unwittingly, obliged.
Learn more about this research study over at The Los Angeles Times.
Image: Tim Smith