New Study Claims Dog Eye Contact Evolved To Trigger Caregivers

It is thought that canine tear production during reunions with owners can trigger human caregiving feelings in the same way studies have observed human children’s eyes glean the same sort of attention. Amazingly, according to Current Biology, dogs have evolved muscles responsible for raising the inner eyebrow which again sparks, ‘nurturing behavior in humans’.

The hormone, oxytocin is secreted in humans when dogs gaze into their eyes, looking for a caregiving response. The hormone is a principal ingredient in bonding.

Tears Play Are Thought to Play a Part in a Caregiver Response

Humans cry in response to happy or sad events with the tears sparked especially in children promoting a caregiving response. Tests performed by Current Biology showed that dogs produce tears when reunited with their owners. To test the hypothesis that tears spark a caregiving response, photos of dogs with artificial tears were presented to volunteers. The photos with tears easily gained a higher score than the photos without tears.

In humans, infants use tears to transmit negative feelings to their parents, and in response to that the receivers show caregiving behavior

Current Biology

Humans and dogs are both social animals. Being able to read another individual’s intentions, emotions, and body language is a valuable skill that helps both humans and dogs thrive in social environments. An eye-contact signal between two dogs can be either friendly or threatening, depending on the situation and the individuals involved. The study found that dogs secreted less tears when reconciled with a friend rather than an owner so thus gleaning less caregiving sentiments.

Understanding Dog Glances
Understanding Dog Glances

Understanding Dog Glances

The duration of an eye-contact signal will vary depending on the situation, species of dog, and relationship between individuals. But, in general, an eye-contact signal is meant to say one of two things. It’s either a way to show dominance towards another dog or a way to show submission to a human. When dogs make eye contact they are sending out very specific signals.

Depending on the relationship between the two dogs and context, the eye contact may mean different things. A dominant dog may stare at a submissive dog to show him who is boss. A submissive dog may stare at a dominant dog to show that he is not challenging the other dog and is hoping to be left alone. Now, thanks to this study we know the third and crucial dog glance is the teared up look a dog gives to glean the caregiver in its owner.

When Your Dog Makes Eye Contact With You

If your dog makes eye contact with you, it’s important to understand what that means. Dogs that make eye contact with their owners often want attention or affection. Some dogs make eye contact because they want you to follow their lead while they’re on leash. If you don’t, you might cause them to become anxious or frustrated.

If your dog makes eye contact with you and you have no way of following their lead or providing them with affection, try using the “broken record” technique. This means you’ll ignore their gaze, and say “no” or “leave it” each time they try to make eye contact. Giving your dog attention or affection when they make eye contact with you shows them that you are the leader in the relationship.

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