What is it we love about dogs? Their love for us? Their unwavering devotion?
Or is it their looks?
Rumpy gets lots of attention for his looks, even at his advanced age. On average we have a stranger stop once a week and ask about his breed. I use it as an opportunity to educate on why a Malamute or Husky is not for everybody.
Two plucky young researchers- Julie Hecht of City University of New York and Alexandra Horowitz of Barnard College- decided to find out if looks matter when we choose a canine companion. (Seeing Dogs: Human Preferences for Dog Physical Attributes; Anthrozoos, volume 28, Issue 1, 2015).
So they took some photos of dogs, and used a photoshopping program to make a slight change to the dog’s features, be it wider eyes, eyes set further apart, raised eyebrows, colored irises, and upturned commissure (jaw joint). In other words, they enhanced infant or human features to the photos.
And? What happened?
Hecht and Horowitz found that we prefer dogs with infant-like features such as wide eyes and wide-set eyes, and that we prefer dogs with color to the iris and dogs that seem to smile.
We don’t seem to care about size, symmetry, or process of domestication.
So? What’s the point?
If these are the features that humans find most appealing, then those are the features rescuers should emphasize. Got a mixed breed dog with big, beautiful blue eyes? Highlight ’em!
And while this study didn’t look at cats, I say, what the heck? Find those appealing features and get some great photos to show them off!
In other news, Las Vegas’ city council recently passed a local ordinance banning the sale of puppies, kittens, and pot-belly pigs. Not surprisingly, Pet industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) is out in full-force trying to get the law overturned. If you live in Vegas or know someone who does, hold your council member accountable and make sure they don’t cave to PIJAC pressure.