The term “Left Gaze Bias” refers to humans’ tendency to look towards the left side of a new persons face when they meet(or the right-hand side of the person.) There really isn’t a well-documented explanation for this, but it only occurs when we encounter the face of another person and not when looking at other new objects or places for the first time. It is said that we naturally do this because the right side of the human face shows emotion more consistently and truthfully. And there is a theory that humans don’t express emotion on the face symmetrically, which if true, would contribute to that innate behavior we have of always looking at the left side first.
A team of researchers conducted an experiment to see if Dog’s also had the tendency for “left gaze bias.” Their studies revealed that they too, tend to look first towards our right side. And, just like us, this “left gaze bias” only happens when looking at human faces. These experiments also tested their reaction to viewing other animals face and inanimate objects, both of which they did not offer the left gaze bias for. Another interested thing they discovered is that, unlike us, dogs also offer the LGB when looking at a human face upside down.
Through this research it’s been decided that just as humans scan the face to read for emotions, dogs do as well. Which from a biological standpoint makes a lot of sense because being sensitive to and able to read another beings emotion provides a lot of advantages. Dogs use body language primarily to communicate, so it’s almost natural for them to pick this up and do the same when interacting with us. This also helps them with avoiding conflict through avoidance in their daily lives and allows them an extra layer of understanding when it comes to our emotions and intentions.
Between their exquisite sense of smell and ability to gather information from pheromones, their incredible sense of hearing, and their ability to read our emotions by our face, they’ve got a pretty good grasp on figuring out what we want as we approach them. This is incredibly fascinating because it tells us that not only can dogs recognize our emotions, but they understand our communication signals are different and they’re able to interpret them accordingly. Their tendency to pay such close attention to us in this way also tells us that our emotions, our moods, how we’re feeling, is important to them.
Personally, I like to think of it as how you would care for a friend’s well-being, but scientifically speaking it likely has more to do with self-preservation and maintaining a healthy emotional balance in their family life.