The dog’s mouth opens wide, her lips pull up at the corners, and her tongue lolls out. Most would look at this face and see an unmistakable grin. But is that really what’s going on here? Do dogs use this expression in the same way as people, to convey their joy, pleasure or contentedness? In other words, are dogs really smiling at us? The answer has roots in our 30,000-year history of keeping dogs as domesticated animals. Thanks to that history, humans and dogs have developed a unique bond, which has also made dogs very useful subjects for the study of communication. “Studying dogs is a really unique opportunity to look at social communication between species,” said Alex Benjamin, an associate lecturer in psychology, who studies dog cognition at the University of York in the United Kingdom
Most of this research also reinforces the idea that the communicative bond we share with dogs is unique. For instance, researchers have found that dogs embrace the human gaze and use eye contact in a way that few other animals do.