Dogs can recognise a happy or angry face, say experts

February 14, 2015 1:28 pm

Everyone knows that dogs are a man’s best friend – and now scientists have shown they can read our faces.
Researchers in have established that dogs are able to tell the difference between angry and happy human expressions.
They say this is the first credible evidence of any non-human animal being able to recognise the countenance of another species.
“Our study demonstrates that dogs can distinguish angry and happy expressions in humans.
“They
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,” said Ludwig Huber, of the University of
Veterinary Medicine Vienna.

Dogs can recognise a happy or angry face, say experts. Photo / Thinkstock

“It appears likely to us that the
dogs associate a smiling face with a positive meaning and an angry
facial expression with a negative meaning.”

The findings are based on tests in which two groups of dogs
were shown a sequence of human photographs. One group was rewarded with
food for touching pictures of people looking happy with their paws and
the other for identifying those looking angry.
The food was dispensed automatically below the touchscreen every time the computer registered a correct response.
The
dogs were able to select the angry or happy face more often than would
be expected by random chance in every case, found the study, which also
involved the Medical University of Vienna and the University of Vienna.
It is published in the journal .
“Further
work will be needed to figure out the behavioural and physiological
consequences of observing emotions in others, for example, whether dogs
show what we call ’emotional contagion’ [the process of being
emotionally affected by another’s mood],” said co-author Corsin Muller,
of the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna.

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