Top Scientific Reasons Dogs Are Cute

by Sonya | Last Updated:   December 20, 2021

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Ever wondered why so many people think that dogs are cute? It turns out the science of cuteness is fascinating stuff and far more interesting than you‘d think. 

The quick answer is – It’s all about how we perceive dogs. He made a list of what we think is cute. The height is low, the eyes are big, and the cute features are round. Researchers have developed a cuteness rating system based on objective measurements such as forehead-to-face ratio, chubby cheeks, and eye size.

Cuteness is what makes us spellbound for puppy pictures. This cuteness makes us rush to forgive our dogs for the occasional naughty misstep. But why are dogs so cute?

Have you ever wondered why most of us spend hours watching videos and photos of cute dogs and puppies?

All the cute stuff makes people kind of crazy. The cuter the dog, the more activation it has in the hedonic center of the brain and the nucleus accumbens. The squee cuteness gives a happy feeling and causes a burst in the pleasure centre.

Do you know: Adorability can be engineered. Artificially boosting a dog’s cuteness score using photo-editing software could elicit a stronger cuteness response in humans.

Dog with glasses researching on computer the scientific reasons dogs are so cute

The Science Behind Why We Think Dogs Are Cute

It’s not just because we love dogs and we want to look after them. There is some science behind it. As human beings, we all have an innate sense of what is cute and what is not.

Whether it’s learned through social constructs or through our natural instincts, we already know that a dog is cute and a shark or a full-grown snake is not so cute. That’s a given.

So, why do dogs make us feel inclined to pet, smooth, and cuddle them?

Well, it’s all to do with a dog’s appearance and how this creates a natural response in us to love, protect, and nurture them.

Puppies are often unable to walk, see, hear or do anything but wriggle for the first few days of their lives. They have the appearance of being helpless and innocent, which in turn makes us want to protect them from harm.

Our brains are actually wired to respond to cuteness cues! Seeing a small puppy triggers a warm, nurturing feeling that makes us want to take care of it, cuddle it, and simply go “awwwww”. 

Why Do We Find Dogs So Cute?

Evolutionary psychology is the reason why one trait is attractive and another is repulsive. Such tastes have adapted to our ancestors, but this may seem subjective and elusive.

Dogs and puppies didn’t evolve to be cute. We evolved to think that dogs are cute. Humans have had immense control over the evolution of domesticated dogs, changing their appearance over generations through selective breeding.

If you look at a picture of a puppy and a baby, you’re going to feel the same warm, fuzzy feelings for both.

“Animals like dogs and cats have been essentially bred to look like babies. They have the big eyes, they have the big ears. When you see them, your brain is thinking ‘this could be a baby’. And it’s only later on, by the time you already have reacted, you say ‘oh, that’s not a baby. But maybe I should still look anyway!”

Says Kringelbach

Cuteness causes our compassionate instinct and takes care of everything that looks like a cute dog. Our affinity for cuteness is an evolved biological response. If we don’t make everything sticky with sweets, we don’t care about them and don’t protect them. We respond to cute cues because it’s in our very nature to nurture our beloved, adorable dog.

Humans have developed a strong tendency towards features such as a disproportionately large head, large eyes at a fairly low position on the face, a small nose, and around, soft body. We find dogs cute for their juvenile features, unaggressive behaviour, and childlike traits.

Why do we find puppies so cute?

The reason we think puppies are cute is that we use evolved standards to help us evaluate members of our species. Looking at the big, round head of a human baby, the puppy is cute because natural selection has made us all muddy.

Puppies get our attention, we like to see them at the nerve level. They trigger activity associated with reward and also compassion and empathy.

Do Dogs Know How to Act Cute?

Most pet parents agree that their dogs are really cute. Some of their expressions and actions simply amplify their “cuteness.” The question is: “Are they born with a natural “cuteness” or are they learning to be cute?”

The dog smile

There is nothing more adorable than a full-blown dog smile. When your dog pulls back the corner of his mouth, your heart melts and shows just enough teeth to be cute. But is the dog really smiling at you, or is there any other explanation for its cute look?

Historically, the facial expression we call a smile actually communicates submission to the leader of the pack. Pet dogs interpret “smiles” in the same way as their ancestors. So, your cute “smiling” dog may simply be indicating that it readily accepts its subordinate position in your family.

The adorable head tilt

Who can resist the cute head tilt? If the dog tilts his head to the side and looks up at you, is it because he’s cute, or is there any other reason?

The answer is more physiological than romantic, and there are three reasons for this:

  1. To see better: If the dog tilts his head to the side and looks up at you, is it because he’s cute, or is there any other reason?
  1. To improve communication: Dogs cock their heads slightly to see you better. To make an accurate analysis of your facial expressions, dogs must clearly see your face. They assess your facial expressions, eye movements, voice tone, and body language to improve their communication. Dogs often have difficulty seeing the entire human face because their nose can get in the way. To see you directly, dogs need to turn their head. This cute head tilt actually widens your horizons. It allows a dog to more clearly see a person’s face and communicate better.
  1. To hear better: The human ear canal is designed to pick up sound so efficiently that you don’t have to tilt your head to pick it up. This is not so with our canine friends! Dogs have ear flaps that partially or completely cover the ear canal and block sound transmission. For a perfect sound collection, dogs usually tilt their heads.

If you notice that the dog’s head tilt is characteristic of a cute dog, it may be due to improved eyesight and hearing.

Those cute puppy dog eyes

It is impossible to resist sweet ageless puppy dog eyes. Even a senior dog can have precious puppy eyes. This wide-eyed expression makes dogs look cute and vulnerable and simply melts our hearts. 

Why are puppy dog eyes so cute? Well, dogs have evolved to raise their inner brows to make their eyes appear larger. Research suggests that humans have a definite preference for dogs with childlike features that include big eyes. When choosing a furry child, we prefer dogs with baby-like features and that raise their inner brows to make their eyes appear larger cute. It’s likely that human selection of this trait has influenced breed characteristics.

Do Dogs Look Cute on Purpose?

Dogs and humans have lived side by side for 30000 years. You have learned to deal with each other. Dogs are intelligent animals and through years of evolution, they have discovered that humans appreciate those positive facial expressions and cute faces pay well with humans.

Here’s what your dog’s cute face is trying to tell you.

  • That soulful gaze: Between dogs and humans, eye contact is an integral part of communication. People mostly reward eye contact. Dogs have gained this understanding and used their gaze to gain awareness and affection for humans.
  • Breaking eye contact: With humans, dogs are perfectly comfortable breaking eye contact. It indicates a comfortable rapport between a dog and its person.
  • Blinking or squinting during eye contact: If the dog blinks while making eye contact with you, the dog may be wondering what you are thinking and your dog lives to appease their owners.
  • Squinting or blinking in general: Blinking and repetitive blinking can mean quite different when the dog is not looking into your eyes. Squinting and rapid blinking can indicate pain, illness, stress, or fear. 
  • Eyebrow-raising: If the dog raises one or both eyebrows while making eye contact, it is a sign of attention and interest. This is an opportunity for you to engage with your fur buddy or teach them a new trick.
  • Head lowering: When your dog lowers its head while gazing up at you, it’s a symbol of submission. You can consider this as a sign of a healthy dog-human relationship.
  • Yawning: Yes, a yawn might indicate tiredness or moments of stress.
  • Lip-licking: A dog who is licking its lips can be communicating a desire to submit to its owner. You can consider it a positive form of doggie communication.
  • Smiling: The relaxed, wiggle smile of the dog shows that everything is going well. It signifies happiness, contentment, or agreement.

Research indicates that the dogs show a much wider range of facial expressions when the human was paying attention. They use special eyebrow gestures when interacting with people. This eyebrow-raising makes their eyes look bigger, which people find cute.

If your furry child never makes cute faces, this is not a huge concern. Just like us, all dogs are different and have unique personalities.

The Top 5 Cutest Pets 

Have you ever dreamt of seeing the top 5 cutest animals in your home? Moneybeach.co.uk has compiled a list of some of the pets we think is the cutest.

Pet% Adherence to the Golden Ratio
1Cat46.51%
2Ferret 46.20%
3Rabbit40.30%
4Hamster31.46%
5Dog (averaged across 100 dog breeds)29.64

Despite being number five, dogs are undeniably the most popular pet choice around the world. 

Dalmatian, famous for the 101 Disney movie Doggy, is officially the cutest breed in the world. The Irish Water Spaniel comes in second place and the Wire Fox Terrier is the third cutest dog breed.

It also seems that size doesn’t change how cute we perceive our dogs are. Some large breeds like Newfoundlands and St. Bernards make the list alongside small dogs like Pugs and Schnauzers.

All dogs are cute, but we took some time to develop this list of the 15 cutest dog breeds.

  1. French Bulldogs 
  2. Beagle
  3. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  4. Golden Retriever
  5. Dachshund
  6. Bernese Mountain Dog
  7. Yorkshire Terrier
  8. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  9. Pug
  10. Pomeranian 
  11. English Bulldog 
  12. Bichon Frise
  13. Siberian Husky
  14. American Eskimo
  15. Cairn Terrier

Of course, it’s up to you whether the breed is cute or beautiful.

Our Own Dogs Are the Cutest

While all dogs, in general, are considered to be cute. However, it seems that we are pre-programmed to find our own dogs cutest and most appealing. This is because dogs very quickly become an important part of the family. We give them cute names, celebrate their birthdays, enjoy their presence, and share their photos like proud parents.

The strong bond of love that develops between owners and their dogs is not surprising when you consider what goes on chemically when you interact with your furry child. 

Petting our dog triggers our brain to release a chemical into the bloodstream. This so-called “cuddle chemical” helps us feel good and allows us to develop a strong bond of affection with our dog.

Dogs looked cute for a long time, but now they are deliberately bred and become more and more adorable. Today’s popular breeds, such as Pomeranian, Yorkie, Shih Tzu, Maltese, Havapoo, Pomapoo, Peekapoo, and Cockapoo are a far cry from their ancestor, the wolf.

One thing is for sure: All dogs have and will always have that cute factor!

Final Thoughts

So you’re not the only one who loves dogs and feels forced to hug and kiss. Your brain is responding to natural ‘cute cues’ and telling you that your dog needs someone to love it!

Cuteness lies in the eyes and brain of the beholder. Scientific evidence shows that our biology leads or perhaps evolves with our tastes.

Even if people think dogs are especially cute as babies, it’s a scientific fact that all dogs are perfect at any age. It’s our job to remind them that every day!

So, next time you look at one of your dogs and feel the urge to hug them, there is actually a purpose behind what you are feeling. Somewhere deep in your brain, nature is making sure you take care of him as best you can.

Sonya is a software engineer by day and recently earned her MBA degree, but she also loves spending her free time writing about her favourite passion, dogs! Click here to read more.
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