Dogs Communicate Through Facial Expressions

Updated on November 8, 2017
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I spend a lot of time researching and learning about new discoveries.

So Expressive!


Study Finds Dogs Communicate Using Facial Expressions

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom have been studying the expressive responses on the faces of dogs in relation to human interaction.

Researchers believe that they have found solid evidence that domestic dogs move their faces more when they are in direct contact with their humans. The facial expression dogs use around humans reveals a strong likelihood that their expressions are a way of communicating.

Dr. Juliane Kaminski, along with her associates, collected data in their study that involved a mix of 24 male and female domestic dogs of various breeds. The study involved the usage of a scientific expression coding system called "DogFACS."

Scientific Approach

DogFacs Coding System
DogFacs Coding System | Source

Dog Facial Action Coding System

The scientific method of measuring the facial action of dogs is called the "Dog Facial Action Coding System," or DogFacs.

The system was originally called, "FACS," and was created in 1978 by Ekman and Fresen. The Facial Action Coding System, was used for several years to study human expressions. Scientists adapted the system so that it would code the expressions and facial movements of animals such as chimpanzees. The latest adjustments to the original FACS, as it was used in this particular study, measured the expressions of dogs in a way that it would be completely objective and accurate.

DogFACS does not detect emotions. Although, most dog owners would agree that their pets demonstrate emotions through their facial expressions, the DogFACS system allowed scientists to code the unitary facial movements of dogs in detail without presumptions involving emotions. By avoiding the emotional elements tied to a dog's facial expressions within the study, biases are removed that allow for more accurate readings of the expressions that dogs make while either in or out of the presence of a human being.

Study Results

According to Dr. Kaminski,

We can now be confident that the production of facial expressions made by dogs are dependent on the attention state of their audience and are not just a result of dogs being excited.

The results of the study showed that dogs use far more facial expressions in the presence of a person or people. The expressions were not the result of simply being excited. The same dogs, when shown treats, demonstrated far less facial, eye, and muscle movements.

When someone was directly looking at the dogs, their faces were far more expressive than when people turned their backs or were not within the visual proximity of the dogs.

The final results support evidence that dogs are sensitive to people and that expressions are active attempts to communicate with them.

The Most Used Expression by Dogs

Who can resist those sweet puppy dog eyes?

Puppy dog eyes were the most commonly viewed expressions in the study.

Perhaps dogs know that they can tug at a human's heart using those sweet expressions? This study indicates that this is a real possibility.


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    • Annkf profile image

      Betty A F 5 months ago from Florida

      Hi Agema, That is so true. Dogs are very expressive. Cats are too, in different ways.

      Thank you for commenting.

    • Gabriel Agema profile image

      Agema Gabriel 5 months ago from Karu

      Wonderful...I believe dogs don't hide their feelings at all...and if science can prove this, all the much better

    • Annkf profile image

      Betty A F 5 months ago from Florida

      Hi peachy, that's so true. Thank you for your comment!

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 5 months ago from Home Sweet Home

      Dogs are alike humans, they can communicate with facial expression, they are clever living things

    • Annkf profile image

      Betty A F 5 months ago from Florida

      Hi Kari, I agree with you. Science has a way of having to prove what we already know. I guess if science backs it up most people will agree that it's true. I'm working on my humane society article for today. Thank you for reading and responding!

      God bless!

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 5 months ago from Ohio

      I can't wait to hear about how the adoption process goes for you, Betty. I had not heard about this study, but I do believe it's truth. I have always felt that my animals try hard to communicate to me. Read you soon! :)