Dogs Lick Their Mouths To Communicate With Angry Humans, Study Finds

Study Finds | 12/1/2017 | View all posts by Daniel Steingold
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LINCOLN, England — If your dog has ever seemed to lick his chops when you’re angry, it’s not out of malice, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Lincoln in England and the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil examined domesticated canines that were either exposed to aural or visual emotional cues, hoping to determine whether mouth licking — typically thought to be in reaction to hunger or uncertainty — held any undiscovered communicative significance.

Researchers - Experiment - Dogs - Stimuli - Pair

The researchers’ experiment simultaneously exposed dogs to two stimuli: a pair of images depicting a given human or canine displaying positive and negative facial expressions, along with a corresponding sound that either carried a positive or negative tone.

The team monitored each dog’s reaction, particularly noting when the moments they’d lick their mouths when observing the images.

Mouth-licking - Cues - Expressions - Species - Effect

“Mouth-licking was triggered by visual cues only (facial expressions). There was also a species effect, with dogs mouth-licking more often when looking at humans than at other dogs,” explains lead author Natalia Albuquerque in a news release. “Most importantly, the findings indicate that this behaviour is linked to the animals’ perception of negative emotions.”

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