There may be a scientific reason why we totally melt when our puppy gives us "puppy eyes." A new study from Nature suggests that when dogs give us those heart-meltingly cute wide eyes, they may be trying to match human expressions rather than manipulate our emotions.
Researchers studied dog reactions to a human giving them varying body language and rewards. They took note of dog's faces when the human was facing them, turned away, and whether or not they had food to give them.
Their findings showed that the dogs were generally more expressive whenever the person was facing them and whether or not they had food. In fact, the presence of food only created minor behavioral changes.
Their expressions were, however, heavily impacted by the amount of attention they were getting from the human. They tended to have wider eyes and more active tongue flicks when they were getting direct attention.
The researchers did note that they had no way of actually knowing the true motivation behind the dog's expression. Even though any true dog lover knows what their canine companion wants without them saying anything, we technically have no way to scientifically prove that we can read their minds. (Yet.)
These findings are pretty revolutionary, though. They suggest that our pups may be truly trying to communicate with us on much more subtle and distinct levels than we previously thought.
Researchers hope to use this foundation to em_bark_ on whole new frontier of slobbery science.