Published in the Scientific Reports Thursday, researchers concluded that dogs do, in fact, use facial expressions to communicate with people — an act previously thought to be an involuntary response, officials said.
"Dogs read human gestures and communicate signals in ways other animals can't," Juliane Kaminski, the study's lead researcher, told National Geographic.
Examining a total of 24 dogs aged between one and 12 (in human years), scientists placed each pet in a quiet room with a video camera focusing solely on its face. After the dog was situated, scientists would then have a person that the animal was familiar with stand a meter away.
Using a specialized facial recognition system for dogs, dubbed DogFACS, researchers concluded that the doggos were more inclined to toss out the "sad puppy eyes" when their human counterpart faced them.
However, Kaminski also noted that the study couldn't exactly predict whether the communication was an attempt at manipulating humans or not.
"We do not see what we would call the ‘dinner-table effect,'" Kaminski, referring to dogs making a "super cute face" to get food, told Nat Geo. "If dogs produced those facial movements with the intent to manipulate us, that would have been the condition where we might have expected them to do something different, but they didn't."
And yet, while dog lovers also insist that their pooch knows when they're sad, the team indicated in their study that it's still too soon to conclude that "dogs have a perception of what a human may be thinking or feeling."
The study, conducted at the University of Portsmouth, was a combined effort from Kaminski, Jennifer Hynds, Paul Morris and Bridget Waller.