Few dog owners can resist it when their beloved pet gives them “puppy dog eyes,” but they have only themselves to blame. According to recent research, dogs developed the muscles that let them raise their inner eyebrows and show those droopy, sorrowful-looking expressions only after they split with their wolf ancestors and started getting comfy with humans, about 20,000 years ago.
The researchers examined several dog breeds, including Labradors, Huskies, and Chihuahuas, as well as mixed-breed dogs, and found that they all have a small, specialized muscle that allows them to give that doleful look that warms and breaks the hearts of their owners. None of the wolves they studied had the same muscle. As one of the researchers explained, the dogs had evolved in a way that got them what they wanted with their human companions. “We pay a lot of attention to faces, they are meaningful to us, and this expression makes dogs look juvenile and sad,” psychologist Bridget Waller explained. “It induces a nurturing response. It’s a cute factor.”
So doggone cute:
- Dogs are thought to be able to understand about 250 words and gestures, which is roughly equivalent to the ability of a 2-year-old human child.
- Dogs have 60 times more odor detectors in their noses than people do: 300 million compared with 5 million.
- The United States is the biggest dog-loving country, with approximately 75 million of the furry friends.