This question intrigues me because I believe that Poppy, our six year old Lhasa Apso, can do just that but research on this subject is difficult to find. The other night Poppy believed that she deserved a treat but, unfortunately for her, I didn’t agree and wouldn’t co-operate. My wife who was sitting on the other side of the room remonstrated with me and firmly instructed me to give the dog a treat.
However, I am not a pushover and remained resolutely opposed to the suggestion, believing that Poppy had eaten enough treats for that particular day. When Poppy realised that I was not going to give in, she turned her attention to my wife and gave her a look that, I am certain, appeared to convey the simple message that I was not doing what I had been told to do. Other dog owners will recognise the intimidating stare I am referring to. Feeling I had no alternative, I gave in and handed her the treat.
It’s in the ‘puppy dog eyes’ after all
In a previous article entitled, “Does your dog ever behave like a mischievous toddler”, I referred to a report undertaken by scientists at Portsmouth University in which the ability of dogs to use facial expressions to their own advantage was discussed. 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.”
Dogs really do know how to play the game
Taking all things into consideration. I believe that our little dog is playing her owners, one against the other, and winning. For example, when Poppy wants me to take her for a walk , she does not come directly to me because I might not be agreeable at the time. Yes. I do have a dog that is quite happy to dictate the timing of her walk. To avoid disappointment, the minx just puts a lot of pressure on my wife, which quickly becomes difficult for her to resist. As soon as I am aware of what is going on, I get my coat on. What else can I do?
I have always been aware that dogs use subtle methods to get their own way and I try very hard to resist this behaviour. If my dog is going to behave like a spoilt child, then I am not going to play ball. However, when the dog subsequently enlists the aid of a third party, the situation becomes more difficult. Effectively, it is two against one and not worth the trouble of a protracted debate.
Please let us know if other owners have ever faced similar situations. We are always happy to receive your stories.