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Features October 2019 Issue

It’s Their Eyebrows That Make Us Love Them

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We dare you to ignore that look.

You know that sad, wistful, puppy dog look our pets often get when they’re trying to communicate their needs to us, the way they make their eyes look bigger and more baby-like? Researchers reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences have just discovered that dogs can achieve that look because of a small muscle above each of their eyes that allows them to intensely raise their inner eyebrows. That’s all it takes to bring out the nurturer in us.

Wolves don’t have that muscle, which is remarkable because it generally takes eons for a muscle to evolve. But dogs separated from wolves only about 30,000 years ago — just a blip in evolutionary time but enough in this instance to create an anatomical feature that inexorably draws us to our canine pals.

Previous research showed that dogs move their eyebrows significantly more when humans are looking at them than when they are not. In other words, dogs are aware of the power of their eye communication.

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