Puppy dog eyes are for the benefit of humans, scientists find

Dogs know exactly how to use 'puppy eyes' to get what they want from humans

"The findings appear to support evidence dogs are sensitive to humans" attention and that expressions are potentially active attempts to communicate, not simple emotional displays'.

The research joins a number of studies probing the extraordinary relationship between humans and their canine companions, including work suggesting dogs understand both the words and the tone of human speech.

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth's Dog Cognition Centre say they are the first to find clear evidence that dogs move their faces in direct response to human attention.

In the study, researchers compared how dogs react to humans who might bring them food, to their faces when they simply look at that food.

Dogs use more facial expressions when people are looking at them - likely in an attempt to communicate with humans, researchers in the United Kingdom concluded.

"We can not in any way speculate what dogs might "mean" with whatever facial movement they produce", she wrote, adding that it's also unknowable whether the dogs "make eyes" in order to manipulate people.

To arrive at these conclusions, Juliane Kaminski and colleagues studied 24 dogs of different breeds, aged from one to twelve years.

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And yet, while dog lovers also insist that their pooch knows when they're sad, the team indicated in their study that it's still too soon to conclude that "dogs have a perception of what a human may be thinking or feeling".

And yes, those could be facial twitches or your dog panting after a nice jog in the park, but facial expressions have also been reported in macaques, dogs and, as of 2015, horses.

However, Kaminski told HuffPost that some news reports on the study have been a little exaggerated.

Until now, it was assumed that dog expressions were involuntary. This suggests they use facial expressions to communicate, not just because they are excited, said Kaminski.

"It tells us that their facial expressions are probably responsive to humans - not just to other dogs", said Waller.

"Facial expression is often seen as something that is very emotionally driven and is very fixed, and so it isn't something that animals can change depending on their circumstances", said Bridget Waller, professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Portsmouth, and an author of the study.

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