Science Says Dogs Can Tell If You're Happy or Sad


Any dog owner will tell you his dog understands what he's feeling—and now, science backs him up:  A new study confirms that dogs know when people feel happy or angry, and that they can understand the difference between the two.

"Our study demonstrates that dogs can distinguish angry and happy expressions in humans," Ludwig Huber, coauthor of the paper in Current Biology and researcher at University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna's Messerli Research Institute, said in a press release. "They can tell that these two expressions have different meanings, and they can do this not only for people they know well, but even for faces they have never seen before."

To understand whether dogs could decipher facial expressions, Huber and his team trained the pups to identify either happiness or anger by studying pictures. The canines looked at the faces of 15 different people, but not their whole faces—just half, to see if the dogs could understand emotions by simply looking at the eyes or the mouth. Half of the dogs received a treat when they identified the happy faces, and half the dogs received a treat for finding the angry face.

Then the dogs participated in four different tests: they examined the same half of the face they were trained on, but with different people; they looked at the other half of the faces they were trained on; they gazed at the other half of the new face; and the left half of the faces from training. Researchers asked the dogs to select either the happy face or the sad face, and the dogs made their picks by pressing their noses to a touch screen.

The dogs selected the angry and happy faces correctly enough that it can’t be attributed to chance—70 out of 100 times, the canines picked the right expression. Overall, dogs were better at finding the happy faces; the researchers believe that this means dogs understand the feeling behind the expression. And the study showed that dogs can take what they’ve learned from training and apply it to new situations—so once a dog learned what her angry master looks like, she could use that knowledge to identify an angry stranger.

“We conclude that the dogs used their memories of real emotional human faces to accomplish the discrimination task,” the authors write in the paper.

The authors also believe that the dogs know that a smiling face is associated with positive feelings while a scowl means something negative. “[I]t appears likely to us that the dogs associate a smiling face with a positive meaning and an angry facial expression with a negative meaning,” Huber says.

This Is the Age When Puppies Reach 'Peak Cuteness'

All puppies are cute, but at some point in a young dog's life, it goes from "It's so cute I could squeeze it to death" to merely regular cute. But when? According to one recent study in the journal Anthrozoös, peak cuteness hits between 6 and 8 weeks old for many dogs, The Washington Post reports.

Finding out when puppies reach their peak attractiveness to humans may give us insights into how domestic dogs evolved. Researchers from the University of Florida asked 51 students at the school to look at 39 black-and-white images of dogs, who belonged to three different breeds and whose ages ranged from birth to 8 months. The viewers then rated them on a sliding scale of squishability.

The results will sound familiar to dog lovers. Puppies aren't entirely adorable immediately after they're born—they can look a little rat-like—and the participants rated them accordingly. As dogs get older, as much as we might love them, their squee-worthy cuteness declines, as the attractiveness scores reflected. The sweet spot, it turns out, is right around when puppies are being weaned, or between 6 and 8 weeks old.

The participants tended to rate dogs as most attractive when the pups were within the first 10 weeks of their lives. According to the results, Cane Corsos were at their cutest around 6.3 weeks old, Jack Russell terriers at 7.7 weeks old, and white shepherds at 8.3 weeks.

The study only used still photos of a few breeds, and it's possible that with a more diverse sample, the time of peak cuteness might vary a bit. Certain puppies might be cuter at an older age, and certain puppies might be cuter when they're even younger. But weaning age happens to coincide with the time when puppies are no longer getting as much support from their mothers, and are thus at a high risk of mortality. By evolving to attract human support at a time when they're most vulnerable, puppies might have boosted their chance at survival until they were old enough to completely take care of themselves.

[h/t The Washington Post]

Martin Wittfooth
The Cat Art Show Is Coming Back to Los Angeles in June
Martin Wittfooth
Martin Wittfooth

After dazzling cat and art lovers alike in 2014 and again in 2016, the Cat Art Show is ready to land in Los Angeles for a third time. The June exhibition, dubbed Cat Art Show 3: The Sequel Returns Again, will feature feline-centric works from such artists as Mark Ryden, Ellen von Unwerth, and Marion Peck.

Like past shows, this one will explore cats through a variety of themes and media. “The enigmatic feline has been a source of artistic inspiration for thousands of years,” the show's creator and curator Susan Michals said in a press release. “One moment they can be a best friend, the next, an antagonist. They are the perfect subject matter, and works of art, all by themselves.”

While some artists have chosen straightforward interpretations of the starring subject, others are using cats as a springboard into topics like gender, politics, and social media. The sculpture, paintings, and photographs on display will be available to purchase, with prices ranging from $300 to $150,000.

Over 9000 visitors are expected to stop into the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles during the show's run from June 14 to June 24. Tickets to the show normally cost $5, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting a cat charity, and admission will be free for everyone on Wednesday, June 20. Check out a few of the works below.

Man in Garfield mask holding cat.
Tiffany Sage

Painting of kitten.
Brandi Milne

Art work of cat in tree.
Kathy Taselitz

Painting of white cat.
Rose Freymuth-Frazier

A cat with no eyes.
Rich Hardcastle

Painting of a cat on a stool.
Vanessa Stockard

Sculpture of pink cat.
Scott Hove

Painting of cat.
Yael Hoenig


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