What is DogFACS?

The Dog Facial Action Coding System (DogFACS) is a scientific observational tool for identifying and coding facial movements in dogs. The system is based on the facial anatomy of dogs and has been adapted from the original FACS system used for humans created by Ekman and Friesen (1978). The DogFACS manual details how to use the system and code the facial movements of dogs objectively.


DogFACS is a standardized system that requires certification to use. The DogFACS Manual identifies each muscle movement that causes visible changes in facial appearance. These are called Action Units (AUs) and each AU is listed in the manual with a numerical code. For each AU, the muscular basis is described along with a list of observable appearance changes and subtle differences between AUs.


The DogFACS Manual and the DogFACS Test can be accessed here. We charge an administration fee for access to the manual which covers our costs of administering and marking the DogFACS test. We charge reduced fees for students and academics wanting to use the system for scientific purposes. We keep a record of users so we can contact you with any changes to the manual.


For correct visualization of the DogFACS Manual, please install the latest version of Adobe Reader on your computer. To decompress the files (manual and test), please install WinRar.


Click here to access the online store and the DogFACS manual.


To use the system you need to take a test after training. This ensures that all users are coding in the same way which is important to maintain standardisation of the system.


When you purchase the DogFACS manual via the online store you will be sent the DogFACS test along with instructions on how to submit your test for scoring and certification.


Please notice that you can attempt the DogFACS Test several times if you don't pass initially. For each additional attempt, however, you may need to wait for several weeks to receive your scores, especially during busy periods. It is also important that the trainee takes enough time to revise the DogFACS Manual before a second attempt.

How to use it?

After becoming DogFACS certified, the coder will be able to reliably code facial movements in videos and pictures of dogs. High quality close-ups of the face should ideally be recorded and pictures must be compared with the neutral face of each dog, accounting for individual variation. Depending on the purpose of coding, two or more cameras should be used in synchrony (e.g. one camera zoomed in on the face and other camera recording body and context behaviours).


The DogFACS can be applied to investigate communication and emotion in dogs through the analyses of dog's facial behaviour.

The people behind it

DogFACS was developed thanks to the joint effort of:

  • Bridget M. Waller,Centre for Comparative and Evolutionary Psychology, University of Portsmouth
  • Juliane Kaminski, Centre for Comparative and Evolutionary Psychology, University of Portsmouth
  • Anne Burrows, Duquesne University and University of Pittsburgh
  • Cátia Caeiro, School of Psychology, University of Lincoln, UK
  • Kate Peirce, Centre for Comparative and Evolutionary Psychology, University of Portsmouth 


The development of DogFACS was supported by a WALTHAM® Foundation Research Grant to Bridget Waller, Juliane Kaminski and Anne Burrows.

We would like to thank:

  • The Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology (and all participating dog owners) for allowing us to use their dogs footage, and Katrin Schumann who helped collect footage.
  • The shelters for access to film their dogs: Portsmouth City Dog Kennels, Hilsea, UK; RSPCA Southridge Animal Centre, London, UK; Second Chance Animal Rescue, Southampton, UK; The Dog’s Trust, West London, UK; The Welfare of Stray Dogs Animal Shelter, Mumbai, India; Wood Green, The Animal’s Charity, Godmanchester, UK.
  • Grace Cannell, Jenny Hynds and Linda Scheider for helpful comments on the manual.
  • Inês Martins for drawing anatomical images.
  • Alex Komechak, Alissa Zalneraitis, David Lum, Leanne Lanteigne, Michael Woon, Riley Burnham, Shaun Horne, Stuart Blacklock and Yashvin Awootar for permission to use their videos from
  • The collaborators who helped with the reliability assessment of DogFACS, Jamie Whitehouse and Linda Scheider

Contact us

Psychology Department

University of Portsmouth

Portsmouth, UK

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