Rescue Journal

what do you see, when looking at me?

Carol  ·  Jul. 20, 2013

as humans, when looking at our animals...we see pretty much what we want to see.
we're lazy and it's easier.

dogs are experts at reading our body language. there is no point in lying to them (or ourselves) they see the truth of the matter even if we don't.

until a new dog actually settles their anxiety enough to actually look at me...we never make a real connection. the depths of real dog/human communication, begin in the face.

i always knew this but what i didn't know was the science behind this. apparently dogs have millions of neuron mirror receptors that reflect and imitate the feelings that we feel. it is a evolutionally survival trait. this is how our dogs read us, know what we are thinking and feeling, this is how they anticipate our wants, our needs and how they then know how to adjust how they behave.

by living with humans for 100's of thousands of years, dogs have learned how to read the millions of muscle combinations in our faces that tell how we are feeling each day.

i used to toy with the idea that dogs were somehow telepathetic, they were so good at reading my mind. but now i know from science that dogs are really great listeners with their eyes. they have developed an astounding level of empathy with humans by learning to read our face.

and our faces can't lie. our faces are the mirror of whatever it is that we feel.

what i find interesting about this is...over the years i have developed a deadpan face. i can actually feel it start to animate when i project a feeling i am wanting to display. whats funny is when i am thinking and not feeling much of anything at the flat affect makes humans uncomfortable...they will say; "why are you grumpy?" when i am not feeling grumpy at all. what they are seeing is, i am not feeling anything about pretty much anything at the moment...i turned it off.

living with the numbers of dogs and the numbers of personalities, and the numbers of k9 feelings, swirling around here each day and their innate ability to mirror and react to my emotions meant..i had to learn to put a lid on my emotions where the dogs couldn't see.

don't get me wrong here, i haven't gotten rid of my feelings and emotions...i just make a conscious effort to only let them see what i want them to see. if i am in a general just pissy mood...i don't want them to feel that. but if someone has specifically done something to really piss me off (like bugging my cats)...i want them to personally and strongly feel that.
if i am sadness belongs buried as deep as i can and i keep my face flat. and if i want them to feel safe and happy, i move my face to communicate that to them.

anyway..i am glad to know this cuz i always felt somehow guilty when humans would accuse me of being unfriendly when i wasn't being unfriendly. they didn't know that what made them feel that was their inability to read my face because i wasn't thinking or feeling anything related to them at the time.

i light up my face when i am working for a purpose. when i am at saints, because i am always surrounded by dogs, i never forget i am working.

face on...face is a critical skill to have when working with dogs.



Not sure I believe this theory. The older I get the more 'angry' my resting face has become (dammit!). But I do believe my dogs so totally can read my emotional state.

My son recently broke his foot. Dogs are all over him with love and kisses big time. Dogs are so smart.

Maggie - florida

I think this ability is amazing, I haven't read too much information about it and your explanation helps. The one thing I read some time ago that opened my eyes to this is that when two people walking dogs are going towards each other, the dogs actually first look at the other persons face and NOT the other dog when they are gauging the situation. Since then I try to be aware of the faces I'm making when I interact with my boys or I see they are looking at me for "information" about my moods or intentions. As always, thanks for your insightful, funny, sad, educational, etc. posts. I


Watched a news program a few weeks ago by the BBC, it is on you tube. They performed a study on dogs. It is called "can dogs sense our emotions".. The science of how they read us is interesting.