While appearance is less important to dogs than to humans (The Journal of Neuroscience, 5/10/2020), pets are still very sensitive to facial expressions and body attitudes. So, with the health crisis, can our masked faces disturb them? Their tremendous adaptability seems to prove that they are not. 30millionsdamis.fr takes stock.
Sight, smell, hearing … dogs use multiple sources of sensory information to identify an individual and analyze their emotions. While humans favor an almost exclusively physical description: ” The brain regions preferring the face have only been observed in humans! “ (The Journal of Neuroscience, 5/10/2020). In both cases, when they alter our senses, the masks we wear to fight the spread of COVID-19 could interfere with the proper understanding of emotions. And this, whether the animals are with their owner or in front of third parties: walking in the public space, visiting relatives, or even in the waiting room of the veterinarian.
Disturbed by our masks at the start of the health crisis …
By hiding our facial expressions, the mask disturbed our doggies, especially at first.
Dr B. Leblanc – veterinarian
“It seems obvious that the mask disturbed our doggies, says Dr B. Leblanc. Indeed, the dog identifies an individual by all his senses – or almost -: sight of course, but also the voice and, above all, the smell that he has much finer than us. To this, the dog adds an analysis of postures and mimics. This is what he does with his fellows, but also with humans! “. Dogs can effectively distinguish expressions of anger and joy – in people known or not – while associating the former with a negative meaning and the latter with a positive meaning (“Dogs can discriminate emotional expressions of human faces”, 12/02 / 2015, Current Biology). This visual information is combined with both auditory communication and olfactory communication (“Dogs recognize dog and human motions”, 01/01/2016, Biology Letters). In other words, ” lDogs have the ability to integrate different sources of sensory information and achieve a coherent perception of human emotions ”, Summarizes Kun Guo, Professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Lincoln (United Kingdom).
However, when we wear the mask, this perception is greatly altered: our facial expressions are incomplete, our smell – especially in the mouth – changes and our voice is muffled. ” At start of the health crisis, during my consultations, I noticed more hesitant reactions from some dogs, generally until I took off my mask, testifies Dr. B. Leblanc. Some masters have given me similar reactions “. An observation shared by Nastasia, mistress of an English Bulldog: ” Poème is disturbed, he has trouble seeing if I’m angry or happy. There is a phase of doubt ”.
… pets have acclimated thanks to their adaptive intelligence
The dog’s great adaptability is at work: he integrates the mask into his perception of the individual.
Dr B. Leblanc
But over time, the dogs were less disturbed at the sight of the mask, thanks to their incredible adaptability. ” I notice less and less worry, reassures the vet. I think the dog’s great adaptability is at work and that he manages to integrate the mask into his perception of the individual “. In reality, it is the person as a whole that matters to him! Cats, too, manage to adapt, thanks to the help of their master: ” My little cat looked at me a lot at the beginning; So I took off my mask, then put it back on and took it off again. I left her a clean one so she could smell it see it and touch it, testifies an Internet user. Since then she seems to have gotten used to it and so she knows I’m going out “.
To adapt to such a change, our 30 million friends can use their sense of smell. ” One of the main ways for them to find out who their master is is to smell their scent., confirms Sophie Scott, director of the Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. But hearing is also an essential parameter here: “ Thanks to the sound of my voice, my dog finally understood my emotions », Assures the mistress of Poème. It is therefore up to us, when we are masked, to take care to modulate the intonation of our voice to communicate with our companions!
And if, despite everything, the animal still seems stressed about having a part of your face obscured, you can still reassure it, for example, by pairing the mask – first in the hand, then worn on the face – a positive sensation, such as a caress or, for the greediest, a treat!