Puppy Dog Eyes

Puppy dog eyes! Dog lovers know the look. If you’re like me, you can’t resist the face of your four-legged baby. A new study of dog facial anatomy postulates that we may have helped our canine companions create this adorable look over time!

Dogs were domesticated over 33,000 years ago.  It is commonly believed that evolution has shaped both their anatomy and behavior and turned them into a human’s best friend.

Our dog Louie is adept at using gaze direction to let us know when he wants popcorn. I’m sure that he’s not alone in his ability to use what is called human communicative skills.


A few of Louie’s favorite foods are below! All because of his puppy dog eyes!

Okay, Louie has never had a cocktail.  I just wanted to see if you were paying attention!

In a study published by PNAS (Proceedings of The National Academy of Science in the United States….hence an acronym!) in June 2019,  researchers studied dogs and wolves and the differences between them with regard to human interaction.

“Dogs were shaped during the course of domestication both in their behavior and in their anatomical features. Here we show that domestication transformed the facial muscle anatomy of dogs specifically for facial communication with humans. A muscle responsible for raising the inner eyebrow intensely is uniformly present in dogs but not in wolves.

Behavioral data show that dogs also produce the eyebrow movement significantly more often and with higher intensity than wolves do, with highest-intensity movements produced exclusively by dogs.” aka puppy dog eyes!

Derby wants waffles
It’s easy to tell that Derby wants a waffle! No, he didn’t get one, only because they had chocolate chips!

Dogs can’t eat chocolate because of the theobromine. Dogs are so susceptible to theobromine that a 50-pound dog can be poisoned by only one ounce of dark chocolate! Be sure to keep your stash away from your pets.

I am proud to report that I have an article in the October 2019 issue of FACES magazine about chocolate!

chocolate caramel apple

And a study published in Science in 2015 found that when dogs and humans look at each other, this seems to lead to “an oxytocin feedback loop analogous to the one that exists between human mothers and infants.” So it is biological!

The team suspects that early in dog evolution humans were more likely to care for canines with this look, perhaps because it reminded them of the big eyes of human infants. Those dogs had more pups, and so the muscles that power big eyes spread through dog populations. Even today, shelter dogs that rock the look are more likely to find a home.


A few friends kindly shared dog photos with me. My guesses at what the dogs were thinking….what’s your guess?

Does your dog have this skill locked down?



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Eva Apelqvist
Eva Apelqvist
July 16, 2019 5:02 pm

What a fun article!

July 18, 2019 4:23 pm

Fascinating! To think that dogs have evolved to be able to raise their eyebrow and give us the puppy look. Thoroughly enjoyed this and looking forward to more.

Reply to  storysharerlaundrie
July 31, 2019 7:39 pm

I absolutely believe dogs understand every word we say. I dont have my Lance and Louie anymore but I could absolutely tell what they wanted by their eyes or by them dragging the bag of treats to me

Susan Berk Koch author

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