If you have ever sat down and noticed that your dog seems to be staring intently in your direction, you may be wondering exactly why this is the case. Of course, the most obvious explanation is that that they stare at you because they love you. But some dogs seem to go beyond this – staring at their owners all the time and following them around.
While you may dismiss your dog staring at you as one of those curious things that doesn’t need much further explanation, the better you understand your pooch’s behavior, the better you can fully appreciate how they are feeling and what they want. With this in mind, we are going to run through a few of the main reasons why your dog may be staring at you.
In fact, in most cases, staring at you is not a negative behavior, so you don’t necessarily need to discourage it. The only exception is if your dog is looking at you in an aggressive way. If this happens too often, you may need to enlist the help of a professional dog behavior expert to see if they can give a helping hand to calm down your pooch.
Longing for Something
One of the most common types of stare for a dog to issue is the longing stare, which is often seen when you are eating. Dogs seem to be perennially hungry creatures, so even if you are eating something that you don’t think will appeal to them, they could still end up staring. Alternatively, they may be longing for you to drop that ball in your hand for them to play with or perhaps strongly wanting you to put on their leash so the two of you can go out for walkies.
Without realizing, we often reinforce this type of behavior by giving your dog what they are looking for when they stare – and this, in turn, leads to more staring. Even if you try not to feed your dog at the dinner table, it is quite difficult to get them out of this staring behavior. And while you may think that it is a little irritating, there are certainly a lot of worse alternatives out there such as whining, barking, or digging. So, this may not be behavior that you feel the need to train them out of at all.
Sometimes, dogs stare because they are trying to work out what is going on. You will often notice a tilted head when they are issuing this type of stare. It often comes when your dog is trying to work out what is expected of them – and this is where it becomes a major issue that the two of you don’t speak the same language! If you issue a clear command but your dog is still staring at you, there is every chance that they haven’t understood properly, and you need to put in some more hours with the training. In these cases, it is important that you don’t punish the dog in any way as this is a lack of understanding rather than wilful disobedience.
Many trainers encourage dogs to stare at them, so they can identify subtle clues and perform the behavior that is expected of them. So, if you are trying to train your dog, staring is actually a good thing.
Tension and Aggression
Sometimes, you see a stare in your dog that is altogether different. One that is harder and fiercer. And this is one that you need to be very wary of – it is the one that many dogs give just before they bite. This staring can only last a few seconds or go on for a number of minutes. Whichever the case, it is important that you try to identify it. So, if you are approaching your dog and they give you this hard stare, you should back off and leave them be for a while.
Unfortunately, for many owners, it can be tough to tell the difference between the hard stare before a bite and one of longing for a treat or toy. You can also look out for other signifiers that accompany the stare such as bared teeth, a lowered head, ears pulled back, and dilated pupils. And you may also notice some ‘verbal’ cues from your dog such as growling to issue a very clear warning. If your dog is frequently aggressive and you are starting to get wary of them, it is important that you take action sooner rather than later. You should be aware that staring directly into your dog’s eyes in this situation can be considered a direct challenge, so be very careful of this.
Our favorite of all the possible dog stares out there is one of love and affection. In fact, your dog may want simply to look at you to express how they are feeling and want to see you reciprocate. For new pooch owners, it can prove to be a tough challenge of working out whether your dog is looking in an aggressive manner or a loving way. Again, it is a good idea to start looking for other signs that your dog is in a loving mood. A couple of these include a soft tail, light panting, relaxed ears and legs, and regular-sized pupils. In some dogs, it just seems to look like they are giving you a big smile, which is a heart-warming thing to see for any owner.
Often, you will see this type of stare in the morning as this is when serotonin levels are at their highest. Also, you won’t have anything in your hand that your dog wants, as this is more likely to be a longing stare rather than a loving one. And there is certainly a subtle difference between the two! If you are sure that your dog is staring lovingly at you, it can be a very pleasant experience to simply spend a few minutes looking right back at them with equal adoration. However, before you attempt this, it is better that you establish a strong relationship with your pooch.
There are all sorts of attention seeking behaviors that are commonly witnessed in dogs, and perhaps one of the most desirable is them staring at you. A few alternatives include barking, whining, running around the house, digging, or generally destroying your behavior. When your dog seeks attention from you, it is often the case that they are simply bored and looking for something to do. So, if you have the time, you can play with your pup to give them the physical and mental stimulation that they are craving.
Of course, as much as we would like, we simply don’t all have the time in the world to give our dogs all the attention that they deserve. You can help resolve this situation by buying some toys that they can enjoy on their own. If you spend a lot of time out of the house, you can try getting a dog sitter in to entertain your pooch during the long daytime hours.
Herding or Hunting
Staring is a useful tool for working dogs when they are involved in a herding or hunting situation. It can be used to control all sorts of livestock to move them into the place they want. As for hunting dogs, this type of stare is often used in a prowling situation. It can also be used on you when you are playing with your furry friend. A few other signifiers that tell you that your dog is in a hunting or herding mood is that they will lower their head and suddenly slow down.
All of these different types of stare are possibilities in answering the question: why does my dog stare at me? A lot of working out which stare they are issuing is context. However, you can also look at your dog’s body language for any additional clues as to what is going on. The better you know your four-legged friend, the more likely it is that you will be able to identify why they are staring at you. But it means that you have to pay close and careful attention to them. As we mentioned at the start, staring is often a positive behavior, so not one that you necessarily need to discourage unless it falls into tension and aggression category above.
Identifying their stare has plenty of benefits to the relationship between the two of you. For example, if you notice an aggressive stare, you know that the time has come to back off and not engage further. However, if you notice a longing stare, you have the option of either giving your dog what they want or using it to offer additional training. And if they are simply trying to express their love, you can show them a bit of TLC back again!