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Canine gaze tracking: dogs can perceive human emotions

Jun 27, 2016

Canine gaze tracking: dogs can perceive human emotions
Scientists have shown for the first time that not only people recognize emotions, but the mood-reading ability applies to canines as well. Scientists from Lincoln University conducted a study using computer vision techniques to see whether dogs have the ability to tune into another species – humans and their emotions.

Professor Daniel Mills led the study and sat 17 pet dogs in front of a screen. Then, two images with another dog’s faces were presented to the pet dog. The first image appeared calm and playful, while the other one pictured an angry canine. They used camera and gaze tracking to trace the dogs’ eye movement. Dogs spent longer time on average looking at the happy faces, especially when they were accompanied by happy barking sounds, unlike the threatening barking sounds that accompanied the angry face.

They did the same using pictures of people accompanied by their recorded speech, and the results were similar. The pets had not seen the dogs or people used in the study before, so this behavior is not a learned one, which is often the case with pet dogs recognizing their owners’ emotions. The conclusion of their study is that dogs have the ability to integrate two different sources of sensory information into a complete holistic perception of emotions of the same species and of humans.

How about you? Can you recognize other people’s emotions? Let us try to do the same with you!


  • Albuquerque et al. (2016): “Dogs recognize dog and human emotions”, in: Biol. Lett., 2016 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2015.0883
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