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Dogs can discriminate emotions in human faces (and want you to be happy)

A team of cognitive scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna has demonstrated for the first time that dogs can differentiate between happy and angry human faces, as they confirm in a press release. Dogs may have developed this skill due to their close relationship with people, in which the animals have learned to understand certain aspects of human non-verbal communication. The results will be published in Current Biology.


During the training phase, dogs from one group were trained to touch images of happy faces. The other group was rewarded for choosing angry faces.

Dogs trained to choose the happy faces mastered the task significantly faster than those who had to choose the angry faces. “It seems that dogs dislike approaching angry faces,” study director Ludwig Huber explains.

So, make sure you put a smile in your face for your dog.

I want to emphasize VetMed’s/Messerli Institute’s generally respectful treatment of the dogs participating in tests, which I had the opportunity to witness. Instead of using force in order to make the dogs stay at the place they have to stay in for the experiment, they take the time, sometimes several weeks, to teach the dogs the appropriate behavior before starting the experiments, which has a considerable impact on the duration of the experiments and may lead to a competitive disadvantage for them.

Not sure I like the Royal Canin sponorship here, but they seem to be quite present at the university.

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