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Archive for November 7th, 2008

Can dogs read us? Like a book

Other than humans, who aren’t always real good at it, dogs are the only animals that can read emotion in human faces, scientists at England’s University of Lincoln claim.

Their research findings suggest (as most any dog owner knows) that dogs can see at a glance if we are happy, sad, pleased or angry.

According to the study, dogs, like humans, have developed something called “left gaze bias,” wherein, when we’re looking at a person’s face, our eyes wander left and examine the right hand side of that face.

Scientists believe the right side of the human face expresses emotions more accurately and more intensely, and that humans, stupid as we otherwise are, have figured that out, if only on a subconscious level.

Helfpul tip: If you’re having trouble figuring out which side of the face you’re looking at is which, think of the right hand side as the passenger side, the left hand side as the driver side. If you’re still confused, remember that the right side of the person’s face you’re looking at would be on your left, unless of course a mirror is involved. If you’re even more confused now, and getting angry about it, have your dog look at the right (passenger, unless you’re in Europe) side of your face. If he sulks and walks away with his tail between his legs, you are indeed angry.

But back to the study, which showed that dogs exhibit “left gaze bias,” but only when looking at human faces. No other animal has been known to display this behavior before.

In the research, a team led by Dr. Kun Guo showed 17 dogs images of human, dog and monkey faces as well as inanimate objects.

Film of the dogs’ eye and head movement exhibited a strong left gaze bias (not to be confused with left wing bias) when the animals were presented with human faces. But this did not occur when they were shown other images, including those of dogs.

Guo believes that, over the centuries they’ve been associated with humans, dogs have evolved the left gaze bias as a way to gauge our emotions.

Man convicted of killing neighbor’s dogs

A western Maryland man has has been convicted of two counts of animal cruelty for fatally shooting two of his neighbors’ dogs who wandered onto his property.

A German shepherd named Harley was shot in May after he bolted after a rabbit, through a barbed wire fence and onto a neighbor’s property, according to WJZ-TV.

The neighbor, Jeffrey Hurd, of Washington County, had shot and killed another dog, a black lab belonging to the same family, ten months earlier, when it came on his property.

“We need to send a message out that you cannot brutally kill animals like that just for your own enjoyment,” said James Rudolph, whose family owned both dogs.

According to court documents, Hurd fired a high-powered rifle at Harley three times.

Hurd’s lawyer argued his client was trying to protect deer and wild turkeys being chased by the dogs.

Animal cruelty is now a felony in Maryland with a penalty of up to three years in prison. Because Hurd killed two dogs, he faces six years.