Dogs and humans communicate quite well. We can read what they want and what they feel pretty well, and they can read us very well. This mutual understanding of shared emotions, many of which act as “social glue”, isn’t all that surprising given the close bond between dogs and humans during the domestication process. (See “Dogs reflect our stress and we know more about how and why”, “Dogs watch us closely and read our faces very well”, “How dogs see the world: Some facts about the canine cosmos”, “Can dogs know us.” “We are angry when we don’t know we are?” “Dogs smell human fear and reflect our mood when they do” and references to it.)
Researchers and non-researchers alike are very interested in how different behavior patterns have developed in our canine companions. And now, based on new research by Dr. Juliane Kaminski and her colleagues learn more about how domestication has altered the facial muscles in dogs so that they, but not wolves, have a unique muscle called AU101 that controls their seductive, sad muscles. looking doggy eyes. In an essay titled “Evolution of Facial Muscle Anatomy in Dogs,” Dr. Kaminski and her colleagues found that humans influenced the behavior and anatomical characteristics of dogs during domestication. You write: “Here we show that domestication has changed the anatomy of the facial muscles of dogs specifically for facial communication with humans. A muscle responsible for the intense lifting of the inner eyebrows is evenly present in dogs, but not in wolves . ” Your essay, published in the renowned journal Procedure of the National Academy of Sciences ((PNAS) is available online, along with pictures of dogs and wolves’ facial muscles and informative videos. What is special about this research report is that it is pretty easy to read even for people who are not researchers themselves. There is also a good number of discussions in popular media for those who want more.
Dr. Kaminski and her team made their very interesting discovery by dissecting the faces of four gray wolves and six domestic dogs (corpses, of course), and also measuring the intensity of facial movements associated with a unique muscle called AU101 during human social interactions out of nine Wolves and 27 dogs. They discovered that, due to the effects of AU101, dogs had a greater ability than wolves to raise the inner corner of the eyebrow without blinking.
How and why did doggy eyes develop? The anatomy of seduction
The results of this study are very interesting and important. We now have a better understanding of how and why big, sad looking poochy eyes developed and this is most likely due to people preferring and choosing them for them during domestication. We also know from previous research by Dr. Kaminski and her colleagues suggest that dogs show more facial expressions when we pay attention to them. (See “Dogs Are More Expressive When We Look At Them.”)
Doggy eyes are often referred to as “paedomorph” (infant or adolescent). These traits are characterized as “cute” and often attract the attention and care of those who see them. So it’s interesting and relevant that another study, titled “Paedomorphic Facial Expressions Give Dogs a Selective Advantage,” showed that dogs that display these poochy eyes are admitted from shelters faster than those that don’t. While we really don’t know the details, the AU101 muscle may have evolved this way because dogs that displayed seductive poochy eyes gained a selective advantage over those who did not as often because of the attraction of people to that facial expression. The rehabilitation data supports the idea that the presence of AU101 is likely important in building and maintaining close relationships between dogs and humans, and they also provide an interesting window on how AU101 might have evolved. In keeping with the rehoming pattern of dogs showing and not showing doggie eyes, Dr. Kaminski and her colleagues concluded, “Overall, the data suggest that selection – possibly primarily unconsciously – during social interactions can put selective pressures on the anatomy of facial muscles in dogs strong enough to allow additional muscles to develop.”
Are doggie eyes used to manipulate people?
Raised eyebrows often evoke a grooming response from people, but there’s really no solid evidence that dogs use them to manipulate us, despite some catchy headlines claiming they do. That dogs manipulate and “use” us is one of many different myths that need to be put to rest once and for all. Suffice it to say that some dogs occasionally use doggie eyes or other behaviors to get something from us, but there is no evidence at all that this is “normal dog business” and that it would have resulted in muscle development AU101, others physical or morphological characteristics or behavioral patterns. (See “Do Dogs Really Manipulate Us? Beware of Misleading Headlines”, “If Dogs Were Really Human, They Would Be Idiots”, “Dogs Live In The Present And Other Harmful Myths”, “Let’s Give Dogs A Break By Distinguishing Myths From.” . “Facts,” Dog confidential, Unleash your dogand links in it.)
Human or artificial selection clearly affects the development of a wide variety of canine traits so that they express themselves in a certain way and in a single direction. Some of these traits are beneficial for dogs, while others are clearly not. (See “Why on earth do people make these types of dogs?” And the links therein). The presence of muscle AU101 made me think of the fascinating fact that 18 different muscles control the ears of dogs, but we don’t know much about how wolves’ ears are controlled. (See “How Dogs Hear and Talk to the World Around Them.”) Perhaps human selection also played a role in the muscles that control canine ear movements.
Where to from here?
I really enjoyed reading Dr. Kaminski and her colleagues and read most, but not all, of the popular reports. Just like with cute doggie eyes, some of the discussions were a little too cute and quick for me considering what we know about dogs and the nature of dog-human interaction. There is still much to be learned about the many ways domestication changed wolves when they became dogs, and who would have thought that humans could have played a significant role in the development of a single, unique muscle found in the canine Human-society is used exchange? (See “Shedding Domestication of the Dog Once and For All.”) Understanding how influential we have been in designing dogs, consciously and unconsciously, for our tastes, including traits that serve or serve them well, is extremely important appear neutral about their health and survival and those that clearly do not serve them well and severely affect their well-being, fertility (reproductive capacity) and longevity. Many ethical questions arise.
The discovery of the AU101 muscle – the anatomy of seduction – shows that we need to go below the surface and dig deeper to learn the hidden causes of what happened in the past, when wolves became dogs, or as author Mark Derr aptly put, when dogs became dogs and what happens now when we interact with our canine companions. (See “Dogs reflect our stress and we know more about how and why.”) Further discussion of dog behavior, dog-human interaction, and the different ways we and our dogs interact with each other in different social situations Contact us, are up to date. I am sure that there will be many fascinating discoveries and conversations in the future.
This story was originally published by Psychologytoday.com. Reprinted with permission.