It may seem random and slightly unnerving, but the dog stare is actually a well-established form of communication in the canine world. Find out why dogs keep staring at us.
Has your dog been keeping an eye on you? If you’re wondering “why does my dog stare at me”, you’re not alone. Dogs stare at us quite a lot, prompting many owners to try and decipher what the mysterious gaze could be about. While we might not be able to know what exactly is going through a dog’s mind, there are a few cues that can help us solve the riddle of their intense stare.
From the loving gaze to the icy glare, dogs use eye contact as a form of communication. So, if you have unexpectedly met your pet’s intense gaze from across the room and you’re looking for explanations, here are a few possible reasons why dogs keep staring at us.
1. They love us
Just as we humans gaze into the eyes of people we adore, dogs have “borrowed” the same sign of affection to communicate with their owners. New research shows that mutual gazing between us and our pets releases the same hormonal response present during mother and infant bonding between humans. If you discover your dog looking at you with longing eyes and no apparent reason, it just might be a sign that they love you. However, don’t be tempted to force your dog into a loving stare by holding their head. Dogs might interpret it as a threat and react accordingly.
2. They’re reading our body language
Since we don’t share the same language, dogs and humans have learned to look out for nonverbal cues to figure out each other’s intentions. It’s not just us trying to understand our dog’s body language.
Dogs also keep an eye out trying to piece together information about what we’re doing or what’s about to happen. This is why owners will often notice their dogs staring at them as they open the cupboard, or put their shoes on. Dogs look at us expecting the next step: getting a treat or going outside.
3. They’re confused
A soft stare, tilted head and pricked ears – dogs have the cutest way of letting us know they’re not sure what’s going on and waiting for clarifications. Oftentimes the answer to the question “why does my dog stare at me” is that they’re feeling confused. If you’ve just given them a command only to be met with a gooey-eyed answer, it’s probably best to revisit a few dog training tips to ensure your pup knows what’s expected of them.
4. They want something
Oftentimes dog owners feel compelled to act when dogs won’t give up looking so intently at them. The reason why dogs stare at us when they want something is because we’ve unintentionally taught them this behaviour. Whether it’s reaching for the treats, taking them for a walk or offering them a cuddle, dogs will quickly learn there is a ‘cause and effect’ rule involving their ability to keep eye contact with their owner. If you reward them with treats and attention every time they sit and stare at you, they’ll keep doing it to get what they’re after.
5. They’re begging for food
Dogs will often want to share food with their owners. Whether you’re sitting at the table having dinner or snacking in front of the TV, if you feel your canine companion staring you down, it’s probably because they want a bite of what you’re having. Be careful in giving up and feeding your dog in those moments as it may turn into a habit that’s difficult to break.
6. They want attention
Sometimes dogs start staring at their owners as a way to get noticed. Dogs are not shy to throw intense stares our way if they feel a bit ignored.
Even if you’re showering your pet with affection every day, dogs might still ask you for extra attention if they get bored or not getting enough exercise. Find out more about attention-seeking dog behaviour with our handy guide.
7. They’re showing aggressiveness
It’s important to remember that puppy eyes are not the only glance in the canine vocabulary. If the dog is very stiff and still, it’s best to avoid maintaining eye contact with them and to give them space to settle down. Aggressive stares will usually come up in interactions with unfamiliar dogs, not with owners. But it’s always best to keep an eye out on body language and make sure to keep away if the signs point to a fearful or worried dog. Find out more about how to manage an aggressive dog in our article.
8. They’re experiencing cognitive dysfunction
If your older dog is staring constantly at you with no apparent reason, this behaviour could be a sign of an illness known as the Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in dogs. Wandering around aimlessly, forgetting basic commands and looking disoriented in familiar settings are other signs that your dog might be suffering from cognitive decline. Make sure you check with your vet if you notice any unusual signs accompanying your dog’s habit of staring at you.
Hopefully by now you’ve got the answer to the question “why does my dog stare at me”. If you want to find out more about how dogs behaviour, how they signal their emotions and learning to recognise your pet’s feeling check out our dog behaviour guides.