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Domestication constrains the ability of dogs to convey emotions via facial expressions in comparison to their wolf ancestors

Hobkirk, Elana R.; Twiss, Sean D.

Domestication constrains the ability of dogs to convey emotions via facial expressions in comparison to their wolf ancestors Thumbnail


Authors

Elana Hobkirk e.r.hobkirk@durham.ac.uk
PGR Student Master of Science



Abstract

Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are the domestically bred descendant of wolves (Canis lupus). However, selective breeding has profoundly altered facial morphologies of dogs compared to their wolf ancestors. We demonstrate that these morphological differences limit the abilities of dogs to successfully produce the same affective facial expressions as wolves. We decoded facial movements of captive wolves during social interactions involving nine separate affective states. We used linear discriminant analyses to predict affective states based on combinations of facial movements. The resulting confusion matrix demonstrates that specific combinations of facial movements predict nine distinct affective states in wolves; the first assessment of this many affective facial expressions in wolves. However, comparative analyses with kennelled rescue dogs revealed reduced ability to predict affective states. Critically, there was a very low predictive power for specific affective states, with confusion occurring between negative and positive states, such as Friendly and Fear. We show that the varying facial morphologies of dogs (specifically non-wolf-like morphologies) limit their ability to produce the same range of affective facial expressions as wolves. Confusion among positive and negative states could be detrimental to human–dog interactions, although our analyses also suggest dogs likely use vocalisations to compensate for limitations in facial communication.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 2, 2024
Online Publication Date May 7, 2024
Publication Date May 7, 2024
Deposit Date May 13, 2024
Publicly Available Date May 13, 2024
Journal Scientific Reports
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 1
Article Number 10491
DOI https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-024-61110-6
Keywords Emotions, Domestication, Wolves, Animal welfare, Domestic dogs, Facial expressions
Public URL https://durham-repository.worktribe.com/output/2437458

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