Which dog is coming home with you? When you look at the faces in the image on this page, were you drawn more to some than others?

According to new research, you are more likely to go for dogs that have raised inner brows, which results in widened eyes. The University of Portsmouth and the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition conducted a lengthy experiment to determine which dogs were more likely to be rehomed from a shelter. And what they discovered was that those that make “puppy dog eyes” are much more likely to be adopted.

Dr. Bridget Waller and Dr. Juliane Kaminski, from Portsmouth University’s Department of Psychology, used new technology that let them analyze the facial expressions of dogs. They studied the number of times dogs in a shelter raised their inner eyebrows when a prospective owner approached and found that dogs that did it often attracted new owners more quickly.

To make sure that other factors weren’t in play, all 27 dogs in the study were Staffordshire bull terriers or mastiffs, all between seven months and eight years old. The team looked at every muscle movement in the faces the dogs made when someone came and stood in front of their pens.

Dr. Kaminski, who is one of the world’s best known experts on dog cognition, thinks that this new research may also offer a clue about the domestication of wolves. She said, “Little is known about the early domestication of wolves. It is clear that specific physical features were actively selected as wolves were domesticated to become dogs, but other features may have also been selected unconsciously.”

Did early humans subconsciously find wolf-dogs with childlike facial features more appealing? Domestic dogs are much closer to wolf puppies than full grown wolves, but scientists believe this came about because humans were actively selecting against aggression in wolves. But the new research suggests that the childlike facial features may also have been preferred.

“It is highly likely that dogs with these facial expressions do not make a better pet than those who do not widen their eyes, but this superficial trait is still preferred over other traits, such as tail wagging.”

However you look at it, it doesn’t take a scientist to tell us how appealing those big puppy dog eyes are!

Does your dog have “puppy dog eyes” and were they a factor when you decided to adopt? Tell us in the comments!


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