There’s a reason why love at first sight exists between people and bug-eyedcanines like pugs and French Bulldogs. Like with human relationships, it’s allin the eye contact. But some dogs are able to engage it more easily thanothers.
Blame it on the size of their nose, a new study from Hungary says. ****
Research on 125 family dogs showed that shorter headed, snub-nosed dogs paymore attention to people, likely making them more social and easier tointeract with, because of the anatomy of their eyes.
Pugs, boxers and French Bulldogs have more ganglion cells responsible forreceiving visual information and fixating on objects in the center of theirretinas, meaning they “can better respond to stimuli,” study lead authorZsófia Bognár, a Ph.D. student in the department of ethology at Eötvös LorándUniversity in Hungary, said in a statement.
The enhanced visuals leads to better eye contact with people, triggering adomino effect of better communication, cooperation and bonding between dog andowner, the researchers say. Past studies have shown that such mutual gazingraises levels of the “love hormone” called oxytocin in both parties.
On the other hand, long-nosed dogs, such as greyhounds, have more evenlydistributed nerve cells in their retinas, meaning they may be distracted bystimuli from their peripheral or side vision when attempting to focus onwhat’s in front of them.
Other factors that may affect your ability to bond with your dog: age,personality and the ancient or contemporary reason they were bred, such as toherd livestock, pull sleds in the snow or simply snuggle on your lap.
The study was published April 29 in the journal Scientific Reports.
Short-nosed dogs may also spark the ‘cute response’
The dogs participated in 12 experiments that tested their social and eyecontact abilities with strangers as their owners sat quietly in a nearbychair. The dogs were a median of 8 years old and included a mixture of mixedand pure breeds.
In one of the tests, the researchers measured how many times the dogs formedeye contact with the experimenter within five minutes by rewarding the dogswith pieces of sausage every time they locked eyes. Cameras connected tocomputers outside the experiment room recorded each test.
It turns out shorter-nosed dogs made faster eye contact with strangers. “It islikely that they see the human face more sharply because of their specialretina, but it is also possible that their owners gaze at them more often astheir facial features resemble a small child, a powerful cue for humans,”Bognár said.
It’s called the “baby schema effect,” the researchers noted, which refers to aset of facial features — such as large heads, round faces and large eyes —thatspark “the so-called ‘cute response.’ ”
“Thus the owners of these dogs may pay more attention towards them and aremore likely to engage in mutual gaze with their animals,” the researchers saidin the study. “Therefore, these dogs may have more opportunity to learn, toengage with humans and make eye-contact with them.”
The team also looked into whether different breeds were more likely to engagein eye contact with people.
It found that dogs bred for “visually guided work” like shepherding cattlemade eye contact with people faster than dogs bred for work like sledding thatfocuses on vocal cues.
And as expected, younger and more playful dogs were able to lock eye contactfaster than older more reserved ones.
Cats share similar bonding abilities with their owners through eye contact.One study found that placing yourself in front of your cat, narrowing youreyes like you would in a relaxed smile, then closing them for a couple ofseconds, mimicking a slow motion blink, is a form of positive emotionalcommunication between cats and humans.
Next time you want to bond with your dog, just look into their eyes. Andremember, if they aren’t reciprocating the love, it’s not that they don’t feelthe same intimacy. Their noses may just be too long.
Source:Katie Camero Miami Herald
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