Facial phenotypes are significant in communication with conspecifics among social primates. Less is understood about the impact of such markers in heterospecific encounters. Through behavioral and physical phenotype analyses of domesticated dogs living in human households, this study aims to evaluate the potential impact of superficial facial markings on dogs' production of human-directed facial expressions. That is, this study explores how facial markings, such as eyebrows, patches, and widow's peaks, are related to expressivity toward humans. We used the Dog Facial Action Coding System (DogFACS) as an objective measure of expressivity, and we developed an original schematic for a standardized coding of facial patterns and coloration on a sample of more than 100 male and female dogs (N = 103), aged from 6 months to 12 years, representing eight breed groups. The present study found a statistically significant, though weak, correlation between expression rate and facial complexity, with dogs with plainer faces tending to be more expressive (r = -0.326, p ≤ 0.001). Interestingly, for adult dogs, human companions characterized dogs' rates of facial expressivity with more accuracy for dogs with plainer faces. Especially relevant to interspecies communication and cooperation, within-subject analyses revealed that dogs' muscle movements were distributed more evenly across their facial regions in a highly social test condition compared to conditions in which they received ambiguous cues from their owners. On the whole, this study provides an original evaluation of how facial features may impact communication in human-dog interactions.
|Publication Title||Animals (Basel)|
|Author Address||Department of Population Health Sciences, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA.Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology, Department of Anthropology, The George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, USA.Independent Data Analyst, Washington, DC 20052, USA.Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, The George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, USA.Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.|
|Cite this work||
Researchers should cite this work as follows: