This Is What Dogs Are Really Thinking When They Look At You

by Eitan Levine
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Dog owners, y'all about to happy-cry.

The problem with owning a dog is you never truly know what your dog thinks about you. Does it actually love you, or does it just see you as the person who gives it treats if it doesn't puke on the carpet? There is no way to know. You can't even judge it based on its smiles because dogs kind of always look like they're smiling.

It's like dogs are your friends' moms who use botox; they're permanently grinning, so you have no idea what they're actually thinking.

Science may have figured out this problem.

In a study published in PLOS ONE, researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico trained a bunch of dogs -- five Border Collies, one Golden Retriever and a Labrador Retriever, to be exact -- to sit still in an MRI to get a look at their brains.


Once in the MRI, the dogs were shown pictures of 50 different humans and 50 different pictures of inanimate objects. Researchers recorded each dog's brain activity when shown each picture, and the results will make you "d'awwwwwww" REAL hard.

Central Queensland University animal behaviorist Bradley Smith told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation,

In this case, they presented facial expressions and worked out that basically the same areas of the brain triggered in dogs as it does in humans in terms of reading and understanding facial cues... So a lot of species can read their own species' facial cues but dogs can actually follow their own and also human.

Dogs recognize humans and can pick up on their emotional states! We all aren't just elaborate doggy vending machines!

Smith elaborated,

So breeds like Border Collies... and hunting dogs that work alongside people, that have been trained to work with us, they're the ones that are really good at paying attention and following our cues because that's what we designed them to do.

Queensland dog behaviorist Nathan Williams said dogs developed this ability over tens of thousands of years.

Williams said,

A dog can [recognize] threat in a person better than us when the facial expressions are very subtle. They're so subtle that we can't read them that well but a dog can [recognize] it.

Here is the funny part: The researchers want to do the same study on cats but can't because they don't think there is a way to get a cat to stay still in an MRI.

Also, our cats want to murder us, and we all know it.

Citations: Here's What Happens To Your Dog's Brain When He Sees You (IFLScience), Our Faces in the Dog's Brain: Functional Imaging Reveals Temporal Cortex Activation during Perception of Human Faces (PLOS ONE), MRI scans used to prove dogs can recognise emotional states in humans (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)