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.
Help! About two years ago I read in another publication that the reason dogs can make such appealing eye expressions is that there was a small muscle over the dog’s eye that had been DISABLED over evolutionary time. This supposedly allowed them to have a baby-like expression that appeals greatly to humans, and this muscle was not disabled in their evolutionary ancestor, the wolf. This is the reverse of what is written here. What’s the real deal?
George Carlin, 1983: “…all the sadness in the world is right in the eyes of a dog. Look right into your doggie’s eyes and think of something really sad. And it’ll look like it’s happening to your dog. You know why they have so successful a look? ‘Cause they got eyebrows! Dogs have eyebrows, or at least little ridges that pass for eyebrows. They got little things… that they can manipulate, just like we do.”