You’ve seen them- your dog is staring at you like they’re trying to bore a hole through you. Why is the puppy eye balling you? What are they looking for?
I’ll tell you everything there is to know about this strange phenomenon, from where it comes from (hint: nature) to how to make it stop (hint: good luck).
And hey- maybe by the end of reading this article your pet dog will finally stop giving you those creepy stares – or you will come to appreciate their piercing gaze.
What are we talking about here
We’ve all been caught in the scenario where you finally get home after a long day’s work, only to crash on your couch, and begin bingeing your favorite TV show.
All of the sudden, you notice these deep brown eyes staring back at you from the corner of the room. But these aren’t scary, or haunting eyes, rather the loving eyes of a furry friend just waiting to be loved.
Having these moments where your dog stares at you (seemingly) in admiration can be sweet, and fulfilling, but what about when it persists? What about when your dog just WON’T STOP STARING AT YOU!
Why is it then that our dogs stare at us? It could be after something as simple as you coming home from work, but sometimes it happens even if you’ve been around them ALL day. There are times where it seems as though our dogs just can’t seem to take their eyes off of us.
And while it’s nice to think that it’s just because they love us SO much, there’s a good chance that they have something else on their mind.
Why do dogs stare at us?
The answer to this question is not simple, as there are a multitude of reasons why your dog may be looking at you, but to help name a few, we have come up with the following explanations.
We all want to believe that our dogs stare at us because they are so shocked in awe of how awesome we are as pet owners, and believe it or not, you could be right. While this is not likely to be true, it is certainly possible, as dogs are known to be very loving, and friendly towards people, especially those who take care of them.
While there is a good chance that they are probably just looking at you for some sort of que (eat, play, walk etc). Dogs are very devoted, loyal animals that can certainly show their affection, even with just gazing upon their respective humans.
Does this mean that they are obsessed with you, or just love you SO much? Maybe, but there could also be another reason for this behavior.
Dogs are also very in tune with humans, so much so that many a pet owner believe that dogs are able to pick up on our moods, gestures, and are able to read us in an almost “freaky” way.
Which could be another reason for why a dog’s staring at us so often, they could simply be reading us, and trying to gain further information.
Another potential reason as to why your dog has suddenly decided to creep on you, is because they are on the hunt for treats. Pets are uniquely adept at picking up on new ways to try and get goodies out of us, and honestly, we’ve all been victim to it.
Even though you can catch your pooch staring at you in a variety of different circumstances, the majority of the time there is food involved. It generally takes place in the kitchen, or any environment where they know there is a reasonable chance that they’re going to be receiving some sort of treat.
One point to take note of is that many dog owners fall victim to the “puppy-eye” effect at the dinner table. Meaning they feel the piercing eyes coming from their doggo when they’re eating, and give in by offering up food to them.
Even if you have only had this happen a handful of times, this also could help to explain why your pup is staring at you. Of course, this one only applies if you are noticing this behavior around the dinner table.
However, another explanation could be that there is confusion on the dog’s behalf as to whether or not you want them to do something. As our furry companions carry a certain lack of speech, they rely heavily on the subtle eye contact, and mannerisms of their humans to direct them.
This can leave serious room for confusion if you are staring long enough back at the pup, as they could simply think that you want them to do a trick for you in order to gain a reward. Dogs wait for more deliberate cues like to fetch, sit down, stay etc., through which they generally get a reward.
Since dogs LOVE treats, they are more keen to keep an eye out for these sort of cues, making the dog staring especially more prevalent with owners who train their pup using positive reinforcement.
So, in this case your dog could be staring at you for hours, just waiting for the next window of opportunity for them to gain a reward.
Another possible situation is that the dog feels neglected, or depressed, and that they are looking at you because they’re bored, or want attention.
So be aware of any shift in behaviour or mood, as the entire relationship starts and ends with eye contact. Also, be conscious that by displaying any tense or angry body language, that you could be sending the wrong signal to the dog.
As the dog can easily pick up on this, and could even become stressed just from seeing you stressed.
Another potential scenario is that they could be showing aggression, which is likely not to be present without provocation, but is something to be aware of, especially if there are kids around.
Dogs also could be attempting to tell you something when they are doing this, as it could be a means to get your attention or tell you something.
For example, if your dog is hungry, or needs to go to the bathroom, then they may just sit right next to you and stare, waiting for you to notice.
SHOULD I STOP MY DOG FROM STARING AT ME?
In the most ideal sense, you should not ever stop your dog from staring at you, and rather simply accept it as normal. Direct eye contact or mutual gazing are normal and not a sign of aggression.
As previously mentioned, there are a lot of positive reasons why your dog could be looking at you, so it’s generally best to not stress them (or yourselves) out over it.
In general, most of the time when your dog is staring at you, it is because they are waiting for a cue from you for their next meal, walk, playtime etc. However, there is also some science behind the behavior, as research has shown that when you look into another person’s eyes, it can increase the hormones associated with social bonding.
One of these hormones is oxytocin, which is commonly referred to as the love, or cuddle hormone, and when dogs gaze into their owners eyes, they are releasing this hormone causing the same bonding experience.
So, unless the dog is in pain, distress, or discomfort, you should ideally NOT look to stop your dog from staring at you with a living gaze.
However, if they are persistent with it, and it does start to creep you out (or become aggressive) then you should look to redirect their attention as early as possible. This can be done by distracting them with toys, pets, or other bonding activities as soon as the behavior begins.
Dog Staring FAQs
IS IT BAD IF MY DOG STARES AT ME?
The majority of the time, the answer to this question is NO. However, you should definitely keep an eye out for any long, aggressive stares, or any aggressives tendencies that may become present along with the staring.
Dogs use their eyes to express emotion (both positive and negative), so stay vigilant for signs that could indicate the dog is upset with you, or it’s current situation.
For example, if the dog begins to stiffen up, and give you a hard stare (especially with older or stray dogs), then they are likely upset, and ready to act out aggressively.
SHOULD I STARE BACK AT MY DOG?
Throughout the course of a day, there are going to be times where your dog looks over at you for cues on their next meal time, walk, or when someone’s at the front door. However, when this looking turns into staring, and lasts an extended period of time, this is generally considered rude to dogs.
When a person stares directly back at the dog, it can be perceived as a threat. So, while you should stare back at them to make sure they are ok, and show that you love them.
Don’t hold the stare for too long, as they could perceive this as a threat, or it could initiate a response for them to try and get some more goodies out of you.
SHOULD YOU LOOK A DOG DIRECTLY IN THE EYES?
Tying into the last question, if you catch yourself staring back at your dog, try to avoid staring them directly in the eyes.
Much like humans, if you stare at a dog in the eyes long enough, they are likely to become irritable, closed-off, and (probably) weirded out by the whole situation. Not to mention it’s an easy way to intimidate your dog, which only teaches them that humans are scary, and unpredictable.
It’s never easy learning from an intimidating authority figure, and dogs should never be forced to learn this way.
When is dog staring bad?
For the majority of healthy dogs, casual staring is completely normal. However, if you begin to notice your pooch staring at walls, or into space for a long period of time, this could be a sign of something more serious. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), is a severe thought-processing problem that’s similar to Alzheimer’s disease in older dogs.
Other symptoms of this could be if the dog is getting lost in familiar places around the home, they are not responding to their name or familiar commands, frequent trembling, or they are wandering aimlessly around the house.
Also, if you notice any aggressive tendencies that come along with the staring, then potentially consider seeking out professional help.
Why does my dog stare at me conclusions
In conclusion, there are certainly a variety of factors to consider when attempting to answer the question of why it is that our dogs stare at us.
They can range anywhere from an attempt to signal a need for food, or a need for help. Which is why it’s important that you pay attention to the dog’s environment, health, and current situation, and try to react accordingly.
Generally speaking, there is nothing to worry about with your dog staring at you, and the act itself should actually be encouraged. Casual eye-contact is a great way to further strengthen the social bond between you, and your furry companion.