Aug. 14 - A wagging tail is not the only clue to a dog's level of happiness, according to researchers in Japan. A team from Azabu University say their studies suggest that if you really want to know how your dog feels, take a close look at its ears and eyebrows. Rob Muir has more.
Its tail isn't wagging, but this dog appears to be "happy". And Miho Nagasawa, at Japan's Azabu University, believes she knows why. The researcher says her studies show that canine pleasure is expressed at least as much in a dog's ears and eyes, as in its tail. SOUNDBITE: MIHO NAGASAWA, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR AND RESEARCHER, AZABU VETERINARY UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "Simply because a dog is wagging its tail it's easy to assume that it is happy. But if we examine the facial expression, for example when an owner appears, a dog's ears will go down and its eyes will open wider than normal." Nagasawa and her team looked to humans for their experimental reference point. When people experience emotion, their feelings are usually conveyed through facial expressions. So, the researchers filmed the dogs during exposure to different visual stimulii, with coloured markers gauging the movement of their facial muscles. Their responses were telling. Seeing their owners, for example, caused the dogs to raise their left eyebrows and lower both ears. And emotionally unpleasant stimulii - like losing sight of their owner - triggered measurable movement of the right ear. Nagasawa says the research could help people relate better to their dogs - and to each other. SOUNDBITE: MIHO NAGASAWA, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR AND RESEARCHER, AZABU VETERINARY UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "The evolution of wolf into dog is comparable to chimpanzees and apes' evolution into humans. There is a theory that these evolutions could be related, so therefore by researching canines, perhaps we can come to a greater understanding of how or why humans have evolved this way with these traits." And Nagasawa says her research will continue..in an effort to get closer to what a dog's life is really like.