When Poppy the Lhasa behaves in a mischievous way, she will take something that belongs to me. This is usually one of my socks, which she takes and then runs off with. However, if I take no notice of this action, she will then sit in front of me, drop the sock onto the floor and dare me to take it. I have realised that it is not enough for her just to possess the item. No… she wants me to know she has it and so taunts me with it. To Poppy this is great fun and, like a human toddler, it will keep her amused for ages.
As demonstrated by the photo attached to this article, when Poppy was much younger, she would steal sticks from the garden. Eventually, through some basic training techniques, she quickly learned that sticks are not to be played with. However it’s in those early puppy months that the most mischievous behaviour is likely. Good training is essential to avoid this becoming an actual behavioural issue.
In a recent article, we discussed the way our dogs may regularly take the time to stare at us using those very expressive eyes to get something from us. It may be that they want a treat or want to be taken for a walk. The way in which dogs look at us, allows little chance of a refusal. Speaking for myself, it’s very easy to give in.
Dogs ‘know’ how to get their own way
Having looked at a recent study by scientists at the University of Portsmouth, I no longer believe that I am a soft touch. It seems that dogs are adept at using facial expressions to get their own way. Over centuries of evolution, dogs have developed the ability to raise their inner eyebrow muscle to create those persuasive puppy dog eyes. Wolves are unable to do this.
Study leader, Dr Juliane Kaminski says. “When dogs make the [‘puppy dog eyes’] movement, it seems to elicit a strong desire in humans to look after them. This would give dogs that move their eyebrows more, a selection advantage over others. It reinforces the ‘puppy dog eyes’ trait for future generations”.
Co-author of the study, Professor Bridget Waller says ”The ‘puppy dog eye’ movement makes a dog’s eyes appear larger, giving them a childlike appearance. It could also mimic the facial movement humans make when they’re sad. Our findings show how important faces can be in capturing our attention, and how powerful facial expression can be.”
Our dogs love to communicate with us
Do dogs intentionally use these traits to manipulate us although there is no evidence to support this theory? The development of the inner eyebrow muscle is the result of 33000 years of evolution and domestication. Our dogs communicate with us every day by using body language and facial expressions. The intense stare, the soulful eyes and, of course, the sideways tilt of the head which makes them even more appealing.
Whatever the science, these remarkable animals are able to understand us and, in their own way, communicate with us. It is not important to me if Poppy is aware of what she is doing. I just think she is great and that’s what really counts. I am sure you will feel the same.