We don’t know about you, but we often find ourselves practically paralyzed when our pooch gives us “that face.” You know, the one when her eyes resemble big, glittering pools of sadness? It’s a striking sight—and one that usually earns her an immediate hug—but it’s also one that frequently has us scratching our heads. “What in the world is she trying to tell us?!”

As it turns out, we are not the only ones to have asked ourselves this very same question. In fact, some animal experts have made a career out of deciphering this mysterious doggy behavior.

Recently, research published in Scientific Reports indicates that man’s best friend may be using those sad eyes as a mere method of communication, not just for a guilt trip. You see, these researchers were able to discover that a dog’s facial expressions broaden when a human is interacting with, or even just looking at, them.

This particular study called for participants to be turned either towards or away from the dogs. In the instances when the human was not paying attention to the animals, the pooches’ faces were observed as being “inflexible,” but when the human was being an attentive owner, the dogs pulled twice as many faces as they did when they were left alone.

It’s a pretty amazing discovery, which has lead animal experts to believe that a dog’s emotional displays aren’t necessarily involuntary, as they had previously suspected. It just goes to show you that dogs are intelligent, sentient, and possibly even caring beings who do their best to relate to us.

Other ways dogs show love

In the past, we’ve clued you in on the multitude of strange and wonderful ways your dog is showing you that she loves you. Most of you know that a pup licking your face or sleeping with you are signs of affection, but there are some other behaviors that threw us for a loop until we learned more about them.

One of our favorites is the “mirroring” behavior that some pooches practice with their owners. Dogs will emulate their owners’ postures and will sometimes even yawn or sneeze when their masters do. This is because dogs are believed to be built with the same level of empathy as human beings are. How awesome is that?!

It’s nice to hear that we are coming to understand our pup friends more and more these days. To hear even more about this breakthrough study on doggy behavior, as well as even more info on how food does—or doesn’t—play a role in our relationships with animals, be sure to watch the video below. Yet another way to feel closer to your fur baby!

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this doggy behavior decoded. Did you suspect that your dog was trying to tell you something through her “sad eyes?” What is the best face that your pup makes? Do you have a special way of communicating with your pet?