The more you get to know your dog, the more you will become familiar with their behaviors: one of them could be the stare-down. Most dogs have quirks that can notify you of changes or peculiarities, as a dog’s behavior is indicative of how they are feeling.
Staring at their human can be a dog’s way to communicate several different things. In general, your dog staring at you is exactly that: them trying to relay information. It’s generally the same reasoning for why cats stare at people as well. Using other context clues, you might be able to determine what your dog is trying to tell you.
Keep reading to learn more about why your dog is staring at you and how to guess what they are thinking.
Dogs Pay Attention To Dog Lovers
It’s no secret that dogs like to follow their humans. Not only are they intrigued by everything that you do, but you are their main source of — well, basically everything. You feed them, give them treats, pet them, take them outside for walks and bathroom breaks, and much more! If you’re at home and around your pet, their eyes are going to be checking in on you as much as possible.
Despite your dog’s eyes being on you all the time, they might not be trying to say the same thing to you with each stare. Every stare could mean something different, from needing to use the potty to simply showing you affection. You can usually figure out what their needs are by looking at the other behaviors they are exhibiting.
Reasons Why Dogs Stare
There could be multiple reasons why your dog is staring at you. You know your dog best and might be able to figure it out quickly, especially after years of figuring out their communication style.
Being fluent in your dog’s body language and what certain changes mean can help you understand your dog better. However, if you’re a new pet parent or meeting a new dog, you might be wondering what their stares mean.
1. Your Dog Wants Something
The most common reason for your dog to be staring at you is that they simply want something. They might be standing and staring at you because they want you to get a toy that has rolled under the couch. Or they could be staring at you on the couch, wondering when you will make your way over to give them a good cuddle. Dogs use eye contact to express all these desires.
When you or a dog trainer are training your dog, you often reward them when they look at you. During dog training sessions, this becomes a learned behavior that teaches your dog that when they look at you, they might get a treat or a pat or some kind of positive acknowledgment.
Consider what is going on around your dog that might be an indicator of what they want. Is the food you’re eating during mealtime more appetizing than the dog food in their bowl? Is it your spot on the couch? Are they staring at the door because they need to go potty?
A dog’s stare (and the so-called “puppy eyes”) can be quite powerful and persuasive.
2. Showing You Affection
Dogs staring at you can be a sign of affection from them. When you know a pup personally, staring into your eyes could be a way for them to convey how they feel about you. Studies revealed that mutual staring between a human and their pet could cause an increase in the release of oxytocin, AKA the love hormone.
To reward them for their loving gaze, shower them with affection. It is what they deserve!
3. Expressing Aggression
While this isn’t always the case, sometimes a dog staring at you can be a sign of aggression. With your own dog, you might be able to sense when something is off with their behavior if they are staring at you and it’s making you uncomfortable. However, with dogs you don’t know, the stiff posture and hard stare can be intense and aggressive behavior.
You should never make prolonged eye contact with a dog that you don’t know or that is seemingly aggressive. This can send the wrong signal to that dog. Dogs that are staring you down while also being very still and seeming agitated are warning you to back off. At this point, listen and ensure your personal safety, as well as the dog’s comfort.
4. Your Dog Is Aging
As dogs enter their golden years, they might try to convey distress through an intentional stare.
Canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome can affect older dogs, and it can result in more confusion and disorientation. This stare might look blank as if searching your eyes for more guidance.
If your dog is staring at you with a glazed-over look, contact your veterinarian to seek help or possible treatment. They can help you treat any underlying conditions as well as make things easier by helping them to live in a stress-free environment.
Should You Be Concerned?
Unless you feel uncomfortable or sense that something is wrong with your dog, their staring and fixation with you is likely quite normal. They love you and don’t know how to say it in the same language we would with them. They want to look at you because they do genuinely like you and want to communicate with you.
When we say you know your dog best, we mean that! But that doesn’t mean that questions and concerns never come up. When you feel a question forming, chat with a Certified Pet Lifestyle Coach™ from AskVet for help.
You can get real-time responses that can help guide you to the next steps in understanding your pet’s staring behavior better. Schedule a virtual session with a CPLC™ for any assistance you need with every non-human member of your family.
With access to answers, a community of other pet parents, and resources for helping your pet, AskVet has got you covered.
Oxytocin-Gaze Positive Loop And The Coevolution Of Human-Dog Bonds | Science
A Review On Mitigating Fear And Aggression In Dogs And Cats In A Veterinary Setting | NCBI