dog science

Is My Dog Manipulating Me?

A master manipulator. Photo: K.C. Alfred/Getty Images

Let me say one thing first: Dogs are furry Earth angels who are perfect in every way and we (humans) don’t deserve their companionship, but thank God we have it. Let me say another thing second: Dogs are masters of emotional manipulation who are playing us (humans) like big, dumb fiddles.

According to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), as dogs became domesticated from wolves, they evolved a muscle that raises their inner eyebrow, creating the “puppy dog eyes” that prompt a “nurturing response” from humans, or at least prompt us to squeal, Oh my GOD I want to eat your FACE.

“When dogs make the movement, it seems to elicit a strong desire in humans to look after them,” the study’s co-author, Dr. Juliane Kaminski at the University of Portsmouth, told CNN.

Dogs who moved their eyebrows in this way, the study suggests, were given more of a “selection advantage” over others, and were more likely to be cared for and bred. After dissecting heads of both dogs and wolves, researchers discovered that the muscle in dogs’ faces that allows them to “intensely” raise their eyebrows, does not consistently exist in wolves.

“This is a striking difference for species separated only 33,000 years ago and we think that the remarkably fast facial muscular changes can be directly linked to dogs’ enhanced social interaction with humans,” lead anatomist Anne Burrows of Duquesne University said.

This is not the first study to look at how dogs manipulate us with their huge sweet eyes. As the BBC points out, back in 2017, another study found that dogs are more likely to use their puppy dog eyes when a human is looking at that, indicating that the motion is a “deliberate behaviour and intended for human consumption.”

So, when my dog, Cleo, looks at me with her big, wet, brown eyes that say (and I’m paraphrasing) I’m baby, is she actually a baby? Or, is she an adult dog woman in her full mental and physical capacity, flexing a muscle that she knows will make me wail, collapse to the ground, whisper “I love you” into her neck, and give her treats?

I think she’s a baby.

Is My Dog Manipulating Me?