We’ve all been there — either in real life or on social media. A dog turns their head and you see the most adorable, heartbreaking puppy dog eyes in the world. These pups may not even be that sad, but their eyes tell a whole different story.
Do you know where the term “puppy dog eyes” comes from, why dogs do it, and what some of the most adorable puppy dog eyes for purebred and mixed breed dogs are? Keep reading for an exhaustive list with pictures that will melt your heart!
What Is the Origin of Puppy Dog Eyes?
A landmark study in 2019 published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal found that dogs have literally evolved their eye muscles to shoot humans a begging look.
Juliane Kaminski, the lead author of the study and a professor at the University of Portsmouth, said in a press release “The evidence is compelling that dogs developed a muscle to raise the inner eyebrow after they were domesticated from wolves.”
The muscle in question, the levator anguli oculi medialis, makes dogs’ eyes appear larger and more pleading. Researchers found that the dog breeds they studied, save the Siberian husky, all have the muscle while wolves did not.
In the press release, Kaminksy continued to explain “When dogs make the [eyebrow] movement, it seems to elicit a strong desire in humans to look after them. This would give dogs that move their eyebrows more of a selection advantage over others and reinforce the ‘puppy dog eyes’ trait for future generations.”
Overall, the study found that thousands of years of domestication have given dogs the ability to better communicate with humans through their eyes alone. Case and point: another experiment in the comprehensive study found that dogs in shelters who frequently used the evolved eye movement — raising their inner eyebrows so their eyes appeared larger — were adopted quickly while those who didn’t had longer stays in the shelter.
39 Dog Breeds and Mixes With the Saddest Puppy Dog Eyes
From a breed list ranging between A to Z (or in this list’s case, W), scroll through an extensive list of the world’s saddest and cutest puppy dog eyes — now scientifically proven to melt your heart.
Smart, eager to please, and ready to ace any job thrown at them, the Australian shepherd loves its family. Though owners can train them fairly easily, Australian shepherds are still dogs with a great sense of smell — and might throw their baby blues in your direction during a particularly delicious meal.
Basset Fauve de Bretagne
The social, lively, and intelligent basset fauve de Bretagne has fur-lined eyes that beg you to hand over food, pets, cuddles, or the last bit of energy for (yet another) long walk. Also known as the fawn-colored Brittany basset, this dog breed has deep-set brown eyes that melt owners into big gushy puddles.
The happy-go-lucky beagle has adorable floppy ears, a droopy face that will make even the hardest-hearted person smile, and an apparent lack of restriction when it comes to regulating their appetite. Compared to some other breeds, beagles often will try to overeat — especially if their humans have something that smells incredibly delicious.
Also known as the Malinois X, this mixed breed combines the best of both parents, resulting in an intelligent, good-natured family protector that enjoys spending time with its humans as much as it does exercising outside. The brown-eyed breed might shoot you begging eyes for food, another walk, or to play for just a little longer. Otherwise, the high-energy Belgian shepherd will eagerly work to please and protect its family.
Bernese Mountain Dog
The hardy Bernese mountain dogs live to please their families; often, just one person in the home will form a special bond with their Berner. The sweet, affectionate nature of the dog comes through in their expressive face and eyes, which look adorably sad when the dog begs for food or has a look of guilt on their face.
The playful and peppy bichon frisé is a treat when interacting with family, young children, and other dogs. They’re both adaptable and friendly to strangers, making them great to train or have in city living. The white coat of a bichon frisé frames the deep, dark eyes of the breed — making their begging all the more adorable when they need you to stay seated so they can sleep in your lap just a little bit longer.
The combination of a boxer’s intelligence and a labrador’s outgoing nature — plus each breed’s great looks — creates one adorable mixed breed dog bred for loving their families. Boxadors are always ready to play and might guilt their family into a several-mile hike by shooting them a sad, sullen look with their dark, large eyes.
The boxer’s dark brown eyes and wrinkled forehead create a perpetually curious expression only exacerbated when they want something. Instantly, a boxer’s face seems to turn from curious about something new to downright despondent. They’re a highly intelligent and emotional breed, allowing them to key into their human’s wants and needs. Or, on the odd occasion, exploit it for another treat.
The perfect companion for any active, outdoor family, the Brittany is an eager-to-please breed that loves children and seeks constant approval through pleasing their owners. The soft face of a Brittany accentuates its eyes, which look constantly alert.
Loyal bulldogs have a friendly attitude — though their faces don’t communicate the same thing! The media has long painted the bulldog as a lazy loaf who only wants to sit on the couch. While they will nap with their family any chance they get, the bulldog does need, and enjoy, regular exercise to keep healthy.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Combine the regality of a toy breed with the athleticism of a spaniel and you get the cavalier King Charles — a great family dog with a face so sweet, you’ll melt the second you lay eyes on them. King Charles’ large, round eyes take up a good portion of its small, round face. As such, many owners have a hard time saying no to any small request made by the pup.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
The “Chessie” is a tireless playmate and hunting dog with a distinct, oily coat that repels water. Though mildly independent, the Chesapeake Bay retriever is a loyal gundog and has better emotional intelligence than many of its counterparts. Their amber eyes seem to stare into your very soul.
The chihuahua-pug hybrid dog breed brings a big personality to the table. These small, mighty dogs are lovers, not fighters… until they don’t get their way. Whether you can handle the pleading of their big, glassy eyes or not, chugs don’t mind flashing their expressive faces at you to secure an extra treat or five more minutes of snuggles.
Since the 1960s, the nearly hypoallergenic cockapoo has delighted families with young children. These dogs like to be next to their owners all the time — they’re a velcro dog that doesn’t mind breaking out the sad puppy dog eyes to ensure they get to stay on the couch, in the bed, or next to their favorite human on a walk.
Even the American Kennel Club describes the cocker spaniel as having “big, dreamy eyes,” so you know you’re in trouble when you adopt a cocker and give in to their first whine. The expressive face and round, dark eyes of a cocker spaniel will melt your heart in all the best ways and provide you with a beautiful and loyal friend for life.
The average Dalmatian will be wary of strangers and loyal to its family. They’re bred as working dogs, so the bright and intelligent Dalmatian remains eager to impress, protect, and get a complex task done. Their distinctive coat juxtaposes their wide, big amber eyes — making any side-eye expression that much cuter.
Ever-alert and expressive, the dachshund has a sparklingly bright personality that shines through with their eyes. They’re a vigilant and noisy breed in the hound group that makes great watchdogs. Dachshund puppies, in particular, have some heart-stopping puppy dog eyes that combine sadness and cuteness in one.
“Frenchies” have grown in so much popularity in the last decade that they recently unseated the Labrador retriever for the first time since 1991 as America’s favorite dog breed. Frenchies have unique faces, with big round eyes that demand attention the moment they notice the spotlight is not on them.
When you see the big, glittering eyes of a German shepherd surrounded by thin slivers of white, you know you’re going to give in to whatever they want. German shepherds aren’t a needy or yippy breed; they’re hard workers with courage, confidence, and intelligence. While they’re not overly independent, German shepherds will bond closely with their humans and protect them with their lives.
Also referred to as a golden dachshund, this hybrid breed takes the best traits of two adorable purebreds and puts them in one adorable dog. The coat of the golden dox alone is adorable; when they look up at you with sad, large eyes, it’s heart-bursting cute. Golden doxes have a mild personality; the gentleness of the golden retriever tampers the stubborn streak of the dachshund in most cases, resulting in a loving, playful, and eagerly affectionate lap dog.
Next to the Labrador retriever in both cuteness and popularity, the golden retriever breed has some of the most heart-melting puppy dog eyes in the world. Their facial structure seems to exude kindness and devotion to their humans. Though bred as a gundog, golden retrievers will happily complete any job that provides a service to their human, which is why they make such great service animals.
As one of America’s favorite hybrid breeds, the poodle-golden retriever hybrid has a happy disposition and bright zest for life with a big family. Goldendoodles make great companions for kids; they’re active and social enough to become gentle playmates while nurturing and protective enough to alert the family if something is amiss. They’re loyal, intelligent, and affectionate dogs — and their cute, curly coat is only exacerbated by the deep-set, glassy round eyes that seem to peer into your heart.
The Jindo dog is alert, loyal, and intelligent. Looking a bit like a Shiba Inu, the Jindo has a similar facial structure, eyes, and erect ears. The angular facial features of the Jindo make the rare sighting of their “puppy eyes” all the more adorable. Jindos work hard to please their first master, with whom they form a sort of soul connection and never forget.
The unique hybrid of a Labrador retriever and a Bernese mountain dog creates an intelligent, friendly, and loving breed that needs lots of exercise and social enrichment. They’re perfect dogs for families with children, as they’ll act both as protectors and playmates as the kids grow up. They love a lot, and their sad puppy dog eyes might come out if and when you leave — triggering their separation anxiety.
Labrador retrievers, or “labs,” remain one of America’s most favorite dog breeds. Their big, brown eyes glimmer with eagerness, mischief, and pure adoration for their families. Labs love to have fun, exercising throughout the day to keep themselves fit and occupied. They’re perfect family dogs and close, confiding companions for life.
The cross of a Maltese and a poodle creates the tiny, adorable maltipoo. Taking the lead from one or both of their parents, the maltipoo dog remains affectionate to their family and most strangers, seeing anyone new as a friend they haven’t met yet. Maltipoos enjoy cuddle time on their owners’ laps and might flash their big eyes when they need a few more hours of sleep, another hug, or more cuddles on the couch.
One of the oldest breeds on earth, the Norwegian elkhound sailed with Vikings and watched the north of the world form into new countries generation after generation. They are strong, steadfast, and intelligent dogs with a sensitive soul. Owners of Norwegian elkhounds see the sweet-natured, protective personality of their pup come through every day in the way they act.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
If your corgi begs, it’s probably not because of attention. These attentive and strong little pups are affectionate and make great companions without being needy. They enjoy performing tasks for their family; because Pembroke Welsh corgis were bred to herd cattle, they remain intelligent, hard-working, and fastidious.
Also known as the “American pit bull terrier,” this term may refer to a larger classification of dogs in the United States. The American Kennel Club doesn’t recognize a “pit bull” breed; instead, it only recognizes the American bulldog. Pit bulls can descend from any “bully” breed, including the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier, the American bulldog, or the Staffordshire bull terrier. Pit bulls have a bad rap of undue ferocity when in reality, they’re loyal to a fault to their owners and have a silly, happy-go-lucky zeal for life.
Like a few of the other toy breeds on the list, Pomeranians have a large personality in a tiny body. While they’re never more than seven to 10 pounds large, Pomeranians have a variable skill set that can accomplish is a great watchdog, learning complex tricks, and becoming a silly playpal for families.
The Pomeranian-husky hybrid mix creates a gorgeous dog of confidence, cuteness, and cuddles. First-time dog owners may see the “puppy eyes” from their pomsky if they are scolded for noise or if they won’t let their pup act on their own accord. The pomsky hybrid breed, known to be willful and stubborn, will let its strong personality shine through its glittering blue and brown wide eyes.
The big, sparkling eyes of a pug are adorable — but also a medical condition. Pugs, along with other brachycephalic breeds, have a predisposition for ocular proptosis, or when your dog’s eye bulges so much, there’s a fear it might pop out. Still, the wide-eyed mischievous toy breed loves its family, getting into trouble, and long naps.
The pug-beagle hybrid breed of puggles couples the squishy, adorable face and affectionate nature of a pug with the alert athleticism of a beagle. Most puggles will play with their families until bedtime — and then long after. If your puggle takes after their beagle parent more, they’ll also beg for food after they’ve eaten because they don’t have great appetite restriction.
Any rescue dog parent will tell you their dog has the cutest puppy dog eyes — just ask them! In all seriousness, rescue dogs span the gamut of different breeds; some may be purebreds while others come from generations of mixed breeds. Depending on their ancestry, rescue dogs may have parents and grandparents from breeds known for begging!
With an independent streak that runs strong through the breed, owners have their work cut out for them when saying no to a Rhodesian ridgeback. These speedy pups can track and bay with the best of them, become devoted companions to their owners, and develop domineering personality traits if not properly trained.
Confident, loyal, and robust, the Rottweiler has an aloof personality to outsiders but allows its goofy side out when alone with its family. The eyes of a Rottweiler closely observe its surroundings for threats. During downtime inside, Rotties will beg for attention, food, and cuddles — as their favorite pastime is being with family.
The smiling sledding dog breed is a powerful and tireless dog that thrives in a family that can provide oodles of attention and exercise. Ever the athlete, Samoyeds find mischievous ways to get into their family’s belongings. Their small, dark, alert eyes aid them on that quest with a sad expression.
The bold, confident, and nearly bossy personality of a Shiba Inu comes through in spades with the dog breed’s expressive face. Many lovers of the breed consider their looks foxlike, with an angular face that frames dark, piercing eyes.
Half retriever, half pointer, the stabyhoun remains an alert sporting companion with a deep well of love and loyalty to its family. The breed is inquisitive, curious, and affectionate; its ever-alert eyes can spot a stranger it needs to protect its family from or a scrap of food that fell on the floor and needs eating.
Wire Fox Terrier
A breed loved as much for its personality as it is for its unique coat, the wire fox terrier provides their owner with a lifetime of hilarity. Wires have sensationally unique personalities and carry a long history of competing in shows. Their dark, glassy eyes stand out prominently on their face, shining with fire and intelligence.
Eyes that Melt Your Heart
Each dog breed on the list — purebred and designer — has an expression that could turn even the staunchest cat person into, at least, a dog liker. Dogs have developed a unique way of expressing themselves and communicating their wants and needs with humans. From the early domestication of wolves, only the breeds that worked to develop the levator anguli oculi medialis have made it to today.
So, the next time your pup flashes you a sad look that breaks your heart, you can smile and chuckle to yourself — they might still be hunting for game in the woods if they hadn’t broken the human kindness code first!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Lorenzooooo/Shutterstock.com
Secure a Lifetime of Wagging Tails: Get Pet Insurance!
Did you know some emergency surgeries for dogs can run upwards of $5,000? Don't put your dog or your wallet at risk! Click the button below to get a free and instant quote on a comprehensive plan for your pup.
A-Z Animals may earn a small commission from using this service.
Ready to discover the top 10 cutest dog breeds in the entire world?
How about the fastest dogs, the largest dogs and those that are -- quite frankly -- just the kindest dogs on the planet? Each day, AZ Animals sends out lists just like this to our thousands of email subscribers. And the best part? It's FREE. Join today by entering your email below.
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.