Dogs have long been known for their close bond with humans. Researchers at George Washington University's GW Primate Genomics Lab now believe that a dog's facial markings may be vital to understanding this connection. Rather than differentiating dogs' expression levels by breed, the team found that dogs with more straightforward facial markings, such as a single color or no patterns, are more expressive when interacting with humans than dogs with complex, multi-colored markings.
By examining 100 different dogs, scientists came to fascinating conclusions about their expressiveness with their owners. Beforehand, dog owners completed a survey that provided information about their individual dogs and backed up the research with contextual details about their dogs' general behavior. Researchers then asked participants to record their dogs in four different commands. The researchers then used a standard coding method, called DogFACS, to analyze the 100 dog's behavior and reactions. They also developed a new system to measure and rate the patterns and markings on the dogs' faces.
Courtney Sexton, the lead author of the study, wrote. "As dogs become increasingly integrated into human society, it's important that we understand how they communicate with us and how we can better communicate with them." She added, "Knowing what dogs are trying to tell us and what they might be thinking or feeling can really enhance both their experience and ours when we're together." Sexton insists that the research will enable dog owners and the general public to better comprehend a dog's behavior to help their needs and keep others safe.
Another fascinating discovery was that older dogs tend to be less expressive with their human companions than younger dogs. Sexton and the research team’s theory is that older dogs feel less of a need to be vividly expressive as their human guardians can quickly tell what their needs are. Whereas a puppy needs to exaggerate their expressions to convey their needs and desires. On the other hand, dogs that had undergone training or were working as service dogs (either for the blind, police, or anxiety victims) were the most expressive of any of the dogs.