Why Does My Dog Stare At Me?
Pretty much every dog owner is familiar with the strange feeling that we are being watched as we go about our everyday chores around the house. Then we turn around, and lo and behold we were right! Our four-legged friend is staring intently, not dropping eye contact, even for a second.
Along with dog barking, staring is a common canine communication technique that carries a lot of important messages, depending on the type of stare and context. Below we will explore a few different stares to uncover what our best friends are trying to tell us.
Confusion - The Head Tilt Stare
This almost feels like a human trait. If we do not quite understand something, we may tilt our head subconsciously to see a different angle.
When dogs stare with a tilted head, they are most likely communicating that they do not understand what you are asking from them. This often happens during training or playing a game. We may feel that we are being clear in our instructions, but our dog simply does not quite grasp it.
When this occurs, it should be a cue for you to change things up a little and figure out if you are communicating clearly and obviously while not overloading your dog with mixed signals.
Dog Needs - The Yearning Stare
When your dog stares at you with yearning or longing eyes, they are communicating something that is exactly what it looks like. They need something from you and they want you to provide it for them.
This is a behavior many dogs learn early. When your dog first met you, they were probably staring at you all the time, trying to figure out who you are and why you were fussing around so much. This likely prompted you to give them treats, toys, and attention, while you were still finding your feet as a dog owner. Therefore, your dog learned that staring longingly was a good way to get stuff from you. They really are that clever.
Love - The Soft, Doe Eyed Stare
Research has shown that dog staring can also be a sign your dog loves you. However, it is important to understand the context and see what other signals this soft stare is paired with. If your dog is staring doe-eyed at you and their ears are relaxed, pupils not dilated, and their tail is wagging sweepingly, they likely just want to tell you that they love you.
This heart-melting stare makes the challenges and responsibility of dog ownership completely worth it, solidifying the reciprocal companion relationship.
Tension - The Hard Stare
A sign of anxiety or fear in dogs, a hard stare can be one of the hardest to understand and pick up. This is what makes it potentially dangerous, and one a responsible dog owner should be aware of. A hard-eyed, direct stare is generally one that either precedes a bite or is an aggressive warning to back off.
To owners who have loving relationships with their dogs, full of snuggles, games, and rewards, this stare may come out of the blue and cause concern. However, it is important to understand the context, and what your dog is trying to communicate.
If your dog is ready to bite or is being defensive, there is a reason. Your dog simply does not want you to come close right now. They may be guarding their food, toy, or territory. Never forget that while our four-legged friends are domesticated, they still carry with them thousands of years of evolution from the wild. Their survival instinct will kick-in, no matter how much you know they are not in danger and are provided for.
Hunting - The Prowl Stare
If you have a dog that was originally bred for herding, hunting, or pest control, you may well be familiar with this stare. Domesticated pets never really lose their natural instincts, so you may see them pouncing on a moving object or violently shaking a toy to death. These are just natural behaviors for dogs that were bred to track, chase, and kill.
This behavior is usually preceded by a fixed stare, with a lowered head, and slow, calculated movements. This shows that your dog is stalking and tracking their ‘prey’, trying not to make any sudden moves that may scare their prize away.
Our dogs stare for a number of different reasons. Spending time understanding this behavior can really help strengthen the bond and understanding between you and your best friend. If you have concerns about any abnormal behavior, it is always best to use your dog health insurance and consult your veterinarian.