Our dear, beloved canine companions can pretty much get us to do almost anything they want, and we usually do it all for them, so very happily.

Their tail wags, in particular, make us smile, and entice us to pet them more, or throw yet another ball in their direction, satisfying their craving for play and comfort and our desire to see them happy.

And their eyes – oh their sweet, sweet eyes – how could we ever resist those? They all seem to know how to get the adorably irresistible “puppy dog eyes” just right, even our more beloved senior companions can too, hypnotizing us with their cuteness.

But, our dear pooches are hiding something from us. They know, perhaps unconsciously, that their “puppy dog” expressions make us melt, and so, naturally, they use it to their advantage — wouldn’t you, being so cute?

A new study from England’s University of Portsmouth conducted by Dr. Bridget Waller and Dr. Juliane Kaminski, among others, has recently proposed that dogs have actually evolved childlike facial features such as “puppy dog eyes” to influence human preference.

So Fido, or at least Fido’s wolf ancestors, knew somehow that their cuteness would pay off in the long run for survival purposes.

But what does this mean for dogs besides getting that extra scrap of food off the table or another round of belly rubs?

Well, according to the study, shelter dogs that exhibit more prominent childlike features – or when they actively raise their inner brows, making their eyes appear larger — are more likely to be rehomed than those with less prominent “puppy dog” expressions.

This, of course, as the study’s researchers point out, does not mean dogs who are able to use their childlike features as an advantage are then better companions than those that do not exhibit them. Instead, what it shows is that “puppy dog eyes” are a superficial trait that most people typically unconsciously prefer over other traits, even tail wagging.

So, ultimately, what have we learned? For one, that our pooch’s “puppy dog eyes” are not for nothing, but rather a natural and evolutionary ingrained feature. And, two, that it’s best for us to be aware of this adorable feature not so much that we avoid giving in to it at home, but that we don’t skip over other dogs at shelters simply because they don’t seem as “cute.”

Every shelter dog deserves as much of a loving home as any other – puppy dog eyes or no puppy dog eyes – they are all beautiful in their own ways.

Image source: zolacoma/ Flickr