Hey, Good Lookin’! I Got My Eyes on You!

What is it we love about dogs? Their love for us? Their unwavering devotion?

Or is it their looks?

Rumpy has what might be considered infant-like features- wide and wide-set eyes. Do humans find those features appealing when choosing a pet?

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!

June Buggie has wide eyes that make him look so darn cute!
June Buggie has wide eyes that make him look so darn cute!


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.


33 thoughts on “Hey, Good Lookin’! I Got My Eyes on You!

  1. We have a “grand dog” with one blue eye and one green one. Damn cute! It’s a white dog with black spots but the eyes are mesmerizing. My step-daughter adopted from a picture posted on a local website so what you say is true. Fortunately the dog is very well mannered and definitely not alpha.

      1. Yes she does. She lives with another dog and a cat and fits in perfectly. Older dog is the (nice) alpha and this dog is the darling of the neighborhood.

  2. Rumpy, people stops us on our walks efurryday to ask a bouts what our most pawesome malamute breed is! Mama makes sure to tells efurrybuddy about my story and rescue pups fur sure! Woooowooooooooo, Kuruk

  3. My preference is for the big wolfy breeds, most particularly shepherds, and most specifically particularly Dutch Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. There’s something I find so gorgeous and appealing about their pointy ears and sleek muscled bodies and dark almond-shaped eyes and square heads and long grinning snouts. Perfection! I just want to hug them and squeeze them and call them George.

      1. You are hilarious! Haha! But you know how all dogs have multiple names? Well, I also have two “collective” names to call the dogs all at once: “puppies” and “bunnies.” And I call them “Bunny” individually as well. I can imagine they feel much like that poor duck when I’m fussing over them (“who’s my bunny, eh? who’s a good little bunny? you are! you’re my sweet bunnybun!”). I don’t know why “bunny” came into the mix since I don’t actually like rabbits…. But it’s a cute word. 🙂

  4. Jen, if you haven’t already, please get this book “Dogs: Their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History”. It’s something of a text book in that it contains a great deal of scientific data about the evolution of canines. The authors pay particular attention to the unique relationship between humans and dogs; asking not so much where and when canines became domesticated but why. They suggest that wolves (or prehistoric canids) developed rounder eye and floppier ears to make them look more appealing to humans. Of the animals most domesticated by people, dogs rank first in both intelligence and the earliest documented examples of domestication. They also point out something obvious: cats (despite their own intellectual aptitude) are too psychologically independent to be domesticated.


    Please also look into this article.


  5. Molly Malamute looks like a plush toy and when we walk everyone wants to pet her. (Depends on how she’s feeling that day whether we stop…must keep her out of trouble as an rescue that was abused and may be unpredictable) But despite the adoration of fuzzy, I always say, this breed isn’t for everyone – and they are a handful.
    Cat eyes! Who could not adore those?

  6. Rumpy is adorable,but try taking a bunny out where people go and they just flock around you 🙂
    whenever I take Speedy out for an adventure,if there are people they just have to come over to say hello and pet him.Sometimes I can be completely surrounded by people want to meet him.it’s a good job he’s a chilled out bunny and laps it all up,xx Rachel

  7. OurGirl loves June Buggie’s very kissable nose freckles! She also wants to kiss Rumpkin and the other kitties. We might need to get a paper route and raise the airfare so she can come for a visit and hand out a bunch of hugs and treats. That might be a more reliable way to get that package she keeps talking about too! MOL ❤

  8. The research that you cited definitely supports Bailey’s experiences. With her big tongue hanging out, she always seems to be smiling. It makes her look friendly and despite her size, people feel comfortable approaching her. Glad to read that I am not the only person who is truthful about what it takes to own a dog with special requirements (drool, double coat, etc.).

  9. I’ve got so many pictures of you, Rumpy and June Buggie here on my computers because both of their faces are irresistibly cute!!! Whenever I feel tired I look up those ones , that make me feel smile.
    I love Rumpy’s big eyes and June Buggies big rounds eyes.
    By the way, I hope Las Vegas city council don’ cave about what they decided!

  10. That’s so interesting, these are similar attributes to those researchers have said create attractiveness in humans! These facts offer some good tips on features to focus on when photographing adoptable dogs. Thanks for sharing!
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  11. Supposedly that explains why people love mushy faced dogs like pugs. They look like wrinkly babies.

    I think contrasting “eyebrows” (like Rumpy’s) are very appealing. For me, the more a dog looks like a wolf, the more appealing I find him or her.

  12. Reblogged this on ravenhawks' magazine and commented:
    I have a Siberian Husky/Malamute mix with one brown eye and one blue eye and my baby boy gets lots of attention,when he is out playing in the yard and digging holes. He is only 18 months old so still have a lot of puppy energy which he happily share with my 5 cats. They love him dearly as do I, when they don’t want to play anymore they take to the top of their cat towers and wish me luck. He likes to sit in my lap when I am in the recliner and lay his head on my shoulder. Yep he’s my baby boy.

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