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Do you Believe in Dog? (2018). Powered by Blogger.

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It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...


26 October 2012

Video Special: Cutest thing ever? Paws on the face!

I'll start with some eye candy
Hi Mia, 

"What do you think is the most common role of dogs these days?"
As I read that in your last post, I blurted out, "companionship" (the guy sitting next to me in the coffee shop didn't even flinch. New Yorkers are expected to talk to ourselves. I succeed). For many people in many societies and cultures, dogs are brought into our lives to be companions.  

But what are the behaviors that make up "companionship"? That's where you come in! Tell me more about Tammie's work into dog behavior and her finding that people want "amicable" dogs, and I'll stick with looks.

Looking at looks
That's what my research talk at the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Conference was all about. I presented our lab's research on what humans find aesthetically pleasing about dogs’ physical appearance. In our study, people viewed images of mixed-breed, adult dogs. We found that they preferred:
This dog has a number of the "preferred" attributes
  • bigger eyes
  • colored irises  
  • approximating a “human” smile 
Interestingly, these attributes were not preferred by everyone, just people who self-labelled as “dog people” or “animal people.” Apparently, what humans find aesthetically appealing in dogs might differ based on how they view dogs and animals in the first place.

What is cute?
I've spent a lot of time reading about what's perceived as cute and physically appealing, and a
pparently, this is considered the cutest thing ever...

Why is this cute? Part of the reason for the "cuteness" might come from an idea suggested by Horowitz and Bekoff (2007): Cute is the ability to use one's limbs to cover one's face. I think they're onto something... 


Bye for now!
King, T., Marston, L.C. & Bennett, P.C. (2009). Describing the ideal Australian companion dog, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 120 (1-2) 93. DOI:10.1016/j.applanim.2009.04.011

Horowitz, A.C. & Bekoff, M. (2007). Naturalizing Anthropomorphism: Behavioral Prompts to Our Humanizing of Animals, Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 20 (1) 35. DOI: 10.2752/089279307780216650

Bekoff, M. Dogs: Looking At the Way We Look At Our Best Friends. Psychology Today. August 21, 2012
© Julie Hecht 2012
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  1. Face-covering is a clever answer, but there's gotta be more to it. Nemo has no limbs, but Disney/Pixar did pretty good at making him "cute."

    I suspect, in fact, that the people at Disney - perhaps unconsciously - have a fairly good handle on what makes an animal cute, limbs notwithstanding.

    1. You are so right. Both physical appearance and behavior contribute to "what is cute and aesthetically pleasing." The Horowitz & Bekoff piece noted above suggests a number of physical attributes and behaviors that us humans might be drawn to, and our recent study took a look at just some of the physical attributes.

      I agree! Unconscious or not, Disney/Pixar certainly knows what it is doing!


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