Science is finally showing what all dog lovers already knew: Dogs can recognize your facial expressions.
In a study by the Messerli Research Institute’s Clever Dog Lab in Vienna, scientists trained dogs to associate pictures of happy or angry faces with their corresponding emotions.
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The study used positive reinforcement training on 20 dogs (10 for happy expressions; 10 for sad expressions), rewarding them with treats when they selected the correct answers.
The dogs were shown new and unfamiliar faces, as well as different parts of the faces, according to the BBC, which spoke with lead researcher Professor Ludwig Huber. This tactic proved successful; Huber believes it showed the dogs were able to “transfer their knowledge” of human facial expressions.
“So, for example, in the training, they see the mouth region of the happy face, and they associate that with what the eyes would look like,” Huber told the BBC.
While the study simply suggests dogs are able to recognize emotion, none of the research proves the canines understand what that happiness or sadness means. Previous studies have suggested that dogs understand human perspective, though, so at least throw Fido a bone for his smarts.