If you’ve ever wondered why dogs stare, you’re not alone. It’s a little random, slightly unnerving, and weird, but a doggie staredown is actually a form of communication between canine and owner.
Sometimes, it feels like every move we make, every step we take, they’ll be watching us. In truth, dogs use eye contact as a means of communication. According to AKC, dogs are more in tune to humans than any other animal on earth.
Think about it: they learn our routines, follow our gestures, detect our moods…the list goes on. If you’ve ever caught your dog’s intense gaze from across the room, they are likely trying to tell you something, express emotion, or another need.
5 Reasons Why Dogs Stare
Your dog is reading you.
Since we don’t speak the same language, our dogs have learned to pick up on nonverbal cues to “read” us.
When your dog stares at you, he may be waiting for your next cue. This may be a walk outside, a meal, or any other activity that impacts him.
For example, your dog knows that when you pick up the leash, he’s about to go for a walk. Or, when you start digging around in the pantry, he may be getting a treat. Dogs are always watching for our signals and looking to us to gain knowledge about their environment.
Your dog loves you.
Those puppy dog eyes! The longing gaze that shoots right to your heart is one of love and affection from your pup. Usually, your dog will follow this up with a wagging tail, licks, snuggles, and hopes of affection in return.
Research shows that mutual staring between owners and dogs can be beneficial, as it releases the “love” chemical called oxytocin. This hormone plays a big role in bonding, love, and trust. But, don’t force your dog into a contest of loving staring.
Your dog wants affection.
Much like they stare to show love, dogs also stare because they want love, too. A longing doe-eyed stare from your pup may be a request for some attention.
This may be as simple as snuggles and pets, or a feisty game of tug-o-war. They simply want attention from the ones they love the most.
Your dog is confused.
Just like humans, sometimes dogs get confused, too. When this happens, your dog may stare with ears perked up and his head will tilt from side to side as you speak. It’s the cutest way to let us know they aren’t sure what’s happening, and they need more info!
If this happens during training, try simplifying your commands, so you can communicate more clearly. Use one- to two-word commands with hand gestures.
Instead of, “can you get in your bed?” say, “bedtime” and point in that direction.
Your dog wants something.
Dogs will often fix their sights on you to get something they want. This may be a walk, food, water, affection, or playtime.
Dogs quickly learn that there is a “cause and effect” rule when it comes to locking eyes with their owner. We’ve subconsciously taught our dogs that a good, solid stare will eventually get them what they want.
This most common scenario is begging for food. If you feed your dog from the table, they’ve learned that a bit of whining and pitiful looks will eventually be rewarded with a small morsel of food.
Although it’s a little strange, gazes from a dog are a way of communicating with humans. If you’re trying to figure out exactly what he wants to say, consider what’s happening around you and your dog’s body language.
If you have any questions about your dog’s habits or behavior, give us a call today!