Are You Happy? Your dog can tell.

We all think our dogs know our moods. At least I know two of mine did because when I was sad or sick, they would stay by my side until I was better. The other 3 didn’t care or didn’t know.

There has been no scientific evidence confirming this until now.  Researchers in a study published in Current Biology, taught dogs to look at a pair of photos arranged side by side – one showing the upper half of a woman’s face looking happy and the other showing the upper half of the same woman’s face looking angry. The dogs had to pick out the happy expression by touching their snouts to it. They were then shown the lower halves of the faces and they could still tell happy from angry. There was a previous study where dogs learned to identify angry faces and distinguish expressions on whole faces. The scientists argue that identifying emotions from photos of different parts of the face requires a more holistic understanding of expression.  Next they plan to test pigs and other animals.

My question is how these scientists make the jump from “happy” smiley faces and “angry” mouth-turned-down faces to actually understanding the emotion that it conveys? Sure the animals can identify the expressions but to say they understand the emotion is a stretch.

However, I do know that Brandy and Magic (both females) did understand while Obi and Midnight (both males) didn’t get it. Baskerville (female) just didn’t care. It was all about her.