20 Jan 2021

What are dogs trying to tell us?

From Summer Times 2021/2022, 11:35 am on 20 January 2021

We've all seen a guilty dog give us that look, that sheepish look that lets us know, that they know they're in trouble. 

Dogs evolved alongside us for 40,000 years, and studies show they've even evolved muscles around the eyes that they can use to make facial expressions to communicate with us. 

Dog training expert Mark Vette joined Summer Times and says even primates don’t bond with us and understand us as well as dogs do.

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Photo: Supplied

“They’ve changed and adapted to be able to relate more harmoniously with us.”

He says we get the same hormone release, oxytocin, from looking into our dog’s eyes that we get from looking at our children or loved ones.

Vette says that dogs were so vital to our lives that some scientists believe we would have gone extinct without them.

“Dogs, then and now, have integrated with us all over the world and they’re the most diverse species on earth next to us, and that’s because they’re next to us.”

Dogs, whether with humans or other dogs, always put the pack first, Vette says, and in many ways are more altruistic than humans.

“That’s why they love us unconditionally and look after us. Guide dogs and police dogs, all those kind of things, they have that predisposition and desire to secure, protect, and help. That’s what happens in a wolf pack, they have helpers in the pack, they have that helper mentality.”

Vette says studies have shown that dogs have around 12 facial expressions – including a smile which around 10-20 percent of dogs will do.

“The difference between a smile and a snarl is quite obvious and it’s a pro-social behaviour.”