Why Does My Dog Stare at Me? | Pupford
May 30th, 2023
Filed under Pet Parenting
On the list of slightly odd things our dogs do we’ll find a behavior that is pretty common by both dogs and people: staring. Sometimes, it’s pretty obvious why, like when your dog is eyeing the juicy burger you’re eating.
But other times, you’re just going about your day and your dog just seems to be watching your every move, which leaves you with a question: why?
We’d love to tell you there’s one clear-cut reason why your dog stares at you, but that’s just not the case. There are a few causes we do know of though, which can help you get to the bottom of your dog’s specific behavior.
One thing to keep in mind is that staring may not be a bad thing, despite what human manners tell us. In fact, your relationship with your dog can actually benefit from it -- but we’ll get to that in a little while.
First, let’s take a look at the possible reasons why your dog has their sights (literally) set on you.
WHY YOUR DOG MAY STARE AT YOU
THEY’RE ASSESSING THEIR ENVIRONMENT THROUGH YOU
You know the old saying that ? Well, it’s pretty accurate. Dogs can use our posture, gestures, facial expressions, and tone to figure out the environment.
For example, if you walk towards where you keep your dog’s leash, you’ll probably notice your dog locking eyes on you, reading context clues until they’re sure you’re grabbing the leash. YAY TIME FOR WALKIES!
Another example would be that stare most dog parents are familiar with, the one that happens once the clock strikes exactly mealtime (it’s seriously eerie how they can do that) -- they’ll maintain that stare and look for signs that you’re getting ready to serve their dinner.
THEY’RE TRYING TO TELL YOU WHAT THEY WANT
Pay attention to what’s going on the next time your dog stares at you. They may be trying to tell you something.
- Are they glancing back and forth between you and the door? It may be time for a potty break.
- Are they staring at you while they eat? They probably (okay, definitely) want a bite.
- Are they staring at you while sitting next to the couch? Maybe their toy is stuck under it and they need help.
This can be a slippery slope though, if you always give in to the “puppy dog eyes.” You may want to teach your dog other ways to communicate their needs, like a for bathroom trips or a specific place to hang out while you eat. That may help your dog learn when to ask you for help versus manipulating you into giving in to what they want -- like getting a bite of your dinner.
THEY’RE SAYING “I LOVE YOU”
If it seems like your dog is gazing lovingly into your eyes, they very well might be! Dogs will stare at humans to express affection, since eye contact releases oxytocin, which is the love hormone.
The more of that chemical that your dog releases, the stronger the bond and trust between you will be. Think of your dog’s stare as a hug they give you with their eyes.
Yeah, pretty stinkin’ sweet right?
THEY’RE DISPLAYING POSSESSION OR AGGRESSION
Shifting gears completely, there’s another side of the coin when it comes to your dog holding eye contact: showing possession or aggression. That instinct can come out when your dog feels unsafe or scared. It also comes into play if your dog has issues with .
If your dog stares at you (or another human or dog) with a stiff posture and their tail rigid, intervention may be necessary to avoid something bad happening. Do not stare back, and if possible, back away and remove your dog from the situation. If it becomes a pattern, you might want to seek the assistance of a dog behaviorist or certified dog trainer.
It’s super important to understand your dog’s body language so you can know if your dog is fearful, stressed, calm, happy, and more.
THEY NEED SOME PROTECTION IN THAT MOMENT
If your dog stares at you during ~vulnerable~ moments (yes, we’re talking about the poop stare), they’re not just being weird, there’s a reason.
When your dog isn’t able to fully be aware of their surroundings, like when they’re going to the bathroom, they look to you to protect them. If your body language or facial expression indicates danger, they’ll know they may be at risk.
So yeah, it’s a little weird, but it means they trust you to keep them safe so embrace it!
USING PROLONGED EYE CONTACT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
For the most part, your dog staring means they have your attention and are showing affection. You can make that work for both of you as a way to communicate.
- Match your body language to your cues. This is a good time to match your body language to your cues so you can develop an additional layer of communication with your dog. If they’re intently focusing on you, it will be easier to do this!
- , they are less likely to get distracted during training sessions.
- You can associate your dog’s eye contact with a cue like “Look at me,” which can help strengthen other behaviors like “leave it,” “drop it,” hand touching, etc.
So although it may feel weird to always feel like you’re being watched, for the most part it’s nothing to be concerned about -- in fact it’s probably a good thing. If your dog enjoys it, be sure to look at them the same way so they know you love them back!
Check out our so you can understand all of your dog's body language signals and know how to keep them happy and safe!
When does your dog stare at you the most? Tell us in the comments!