Why Does My Dog Stare into Space?

You’ve likely heard people say that dogs can sense ghosts. So, if you’re a ghost believer, you might feel convinced that this is why your dog sometimes stares into space.

On the other hand, if you’re not a ghost believer, you’ll likely be happy to know that there are many reasons why your dog seemingly dozes off into space with his eyes open.

why does my dog stare into space
Why does my dog stare into space?

Are you tired of asking yourself, why does my dog stare into space? If so, pull your pooch onto your lap and read on for must-know information. 

Understanding the Behavior of a Dog’s Space Staring

Before I get into a detailed explanation of why your dog may be staring off into space, let’s start with an overview. 

Harmless reasons your dog stares into space include:

  • He hears something outside
  • There’s a bug on the wall
  • He wants attention 

If your dog is staring into space because of a medical condition, it could be for one of the following reasons:

  • He has an infection
  • His eyesight is deteriorating
  • He has dog dementia
  • He’s in the middle of a seizure

Obviously, some of these scenarios require immediate veterinary attention. So, I’ll help you sort out whether your dog’s space staring could be a serious issue.

Why Does My Dog Stare into Space?

In some cases, staring off into space is normal for dogs. In other cases, it’s a sign of a potentially serious medical condition. Read on for more details.

shih poo puppy outside
A Shih Poo puppy outside on the grass

1. Staring into Space Because of Outdoor Noises

You don’t need me to tell you that your dog has better hearing than you do—you’ve likely witnessed him rushing downstairs upon hearing a family member’s car drive into their driveway long before the vehicle appeared.

So, a common reason why dogs stare into space is that they’re listening to something outside that you can’t hear. 

If you’re unsure whether your dog is really hearing something or going crazy, try watching their head; they’ll often tilt it a little as they’re listening.

Furthermore, you can watch your dog’s ears for signs that he may be listening to something outside. If your dog’s ears move forward and back (or up and down if they have floppy ears), they’re most likely listening to something.

2. Staring into Space Because of a Bug on the Wall

If your reaction is to think, I already looked where my dog is looking, and I know that there’s no bug on the wall, I encourage you to reconsider—the bug could be inside your wall, not on it.

In fact, if your dog is staring at the wall and not moving its eyes, you can almost be certain that if bugs are the culprit, they’re inside your wall where your dog can’t watch them move around.

To be fair, the sound coming from inside your wall could be from a much larger problem than an insect. There could be a mouse or other rodent rummaging around, giving your dog a hearing field day.

If wall staring is a recurring behavior your dog displays, it just might be time to give your exterminator a call.

cleaning poodle ears
It is better to use wipes or cotton swabs rather than pointy tools to clean narrow ear canals like those of a Poodle

3. Staring into Space as an Attention Grabber

In an ideal world for a dog, you would pet him 24 hours a day. So, your dog may start by staring out into space for one of the first reasons I just covered.

However, if he realizes that this leads you to give him attention, as most dog owners would upon seeing their dog display unusual behavior, he just might repeat the process again for the sole reason of getting some love from you.

According to dog trainers, it can take a dog three to four weeks to pick up on a new habit.

Nevertheless, I think most dog owners would agree that when it comes to a dog learning what gets him attention, he picks up new habits much quicker.

4. Staring into Space Because of an Infection

When a dog has a severe infection, it can cause him to display odd behaviors, including staring off into space. Some common infection-related diseases in dogs include:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Tooth infection
  • Infected wound
  • Ear infection
  • Kidney or lung infection

More often than not, it isn’t the infection itself that causes dogs to stare off into space but the fever that often accompanies an infection. If you don’t have a thermometer on hand to check your dog’s temperature, try placing the back of your hand on his nose. If it’s warm, he may have a fever.

Other symptoms of an infection or fever that could be causing your dog to have a blank stare include:

  • Wobbling when standing
  • Vomiting
  • Darting his eyes
  • Tilting his head

Infections are a serious condition in dogs and need immediate veterinary attention. With the right antibiotics, your dog will likely start feeling better shortly, and him staring off into space will be a thing of the past—until he hears that new noise outside!

cavapoo being hyper at the beach
A Cavapoo being hyper at the beach. Having fun!

5. Staring into Space Because of Deteriorating Eyesight

Just like people, a dog’s eyesight often worsens as it gets older. But unlike people, you can’t toss a pair of glasses on your dog to help improve the situation. 

Therefore, if you notice that your dog tends to stare into space more as he gets older, it could be because it takes him longer to focus on an object to see it better. It could also be because of an eye-related medical condition, such as: 

  • Cataracts
  • Nuclear sclerosis
  • Glaucoma

If you’re concerned about your dog’s eye health, you should take him to the vet. In some cases, such as with cataracts, your vet can operate to help improve your dog’s vision.

6. Staring into Space Because of Dementia

No, you’re not crazy if your dog suddenly starts forgetting where the front door is when the doorbell rings or if he runs to the fridge instead of the pantry to get a treat.

Dog dementia, which scientists call canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD), occurs in as many as 60% of dogs. Once a dog reaches 11 years old, his chances of getting CCD increase.

As with people, some dogs experience memory loss as they get older. In worst cases, your dog’s dementia may progress to the point where he forgets who you are. 

As heartbreaking as that is, here’s some reassuring news—there are certain medicines that may reduce or delay CCD symptoms.

7. Staring into Space Because of a Seizure 

If you have a dog with epilepsy, your first reaction when you see him staring into space is that he’s having a seizure. If this is your first time seeing your dog stare into space, a seizure should be among your considerations about why he’s doing so.

Although most seizures involve rolling on the ground and foam coming out of a dog’s mouth, focal seizures cause a dog to stand still while the seizure is happening.

Poisons and cancer are common reasons that dogs may have a focal seizure. If your dog doesn’t respond to you when you try to distract him from staring into space, then a seizure could be the culprit.

You guessed right—take your dog to the vet immediately if you think epilepsy is at play.

Should I Be Worried That My Dog Is Seeing a Ghost?

Some dog owners insist that their dog can see ghosts, and that’s why he stares into space. 

I’m not here to argue for or against this. After all, we can only turn to science, and any good scientist will tell you that they don’t hold all the answers.

But let’s stick to science for a moment: Dogs have better hearing than humans, as they can pick up more sound that travels via air vibrations.

How much sound can your dog hear, you wonder? He can hear up to 50,000Hz (vibrations) per second.

Compare that to a human’s ability to hear up to 20,000Hz per second, and you can understand why your dog knows a thunderstorm is looming long before you can hear it.

Non-ghost believers say that a dog’s hearing is the reason they stare off into space and see “ghosts.” Ghost believers say that dogs are far more sensitive than humans and can absolutely detect them.

I’ll leave this up to you to decide!

puppy at the vet with owners one adult one child
A cute puppy enjoying a Vet visit

How To Stop a Dog from Staring into Space

Assuming your dog doesn’t have a medical condition, there are several tactics you can use to prevent your dog from staring into space. They include:

  • Distracting him with a toy
  • Turning on the radio
  • Moving him to a different room
  • Giving him lots of exercise

Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Space Staring

Nero part Dalmatian eyes
A Dalmatian mix dog breed staring from afar.

Is it normal for a dog to stare into space?

It’s normal for dogs to stare into space occasionally. They may hear a bug or rodent in the wall or there could be something outside that you can’t see or hear but they can.

Should I encourage my dog to stare into space?

As long as your dog doesn’t seem distressed by staring into space, you don’t have to stop him. However, there’s no need to encourage it. Instead, give your dog plenty of mental stimulation.

When should I worry about my dog staring into space?

If your dog doesn’t react when you call his name or hears the treat bag, he could be in the midst of a serious medical problem. So, when in doubt, it’s best to give your vet a call.