There are times when your dog stares at you so oddly that it feels unnerving. Sure, seeing the happy and loving gaze of your furry friend gives you a wonderful feeling. But sometimes you wish you knew what those looks mean.
To help you decode your dog’s gaze, we’ve compiled the most common questions about dog staring. We’ve also found the answers to each of them!
Why does my dog stare at me whilst I sleep?
- He could be sleeping with eyes partially or fully open. Your dog has a third eyelid–the nictitating membrane–that protects his eyes and keeps them from drying out. This membrane is so thin it looks transparent. When open-eyed canine sleepers doze off, this third eyelid covers their peepers. Although dogs do not sleep with only their third eyelid protecting their eyes, sometimes this can happen.
- He could be anxious about your presence. This especially applies to abandoned rescue dogs who may have traumatic memories of past experiences. An owner who adopted a rescued golden retriever is one example. He found it strange that the dog stared at him outside his bedroom every night as he slept. He later found out that the dog’s previous owner took the creature to the shelter at night whilst he was asleep. From then on, the dog never slept at night fearing he will wake up in a strange place again.
- He is probably curious about the funny noises you make. Some dogs have been known to stare at owners who snore loudly whilst sleeping.
- He wants you to do something necessary for him. If you usually find your pooch staring at you in the morning, it is probably because he needs to potty. It could also be his way of asking you to feed him.
- He has learned to get your attention this way. Do you fuss over your pet when you catch him staring at you when you wake? He probably has learnt that it’s one way to get your attention and thus does it.
Why does my dog stare at me when I eat (and also when he eats)?
Your pooch stares at you whilst you eat in anticipation of getting a taste of your food. Dogs love food and will never miss an opportunity to get a treat, unless they are really sick. Even if you do not toss him a morsel, he’s hoping to enjoy anything that accidentally falls from the table.
If you want to remedy this situation, you can time your pet’s meals with yours. You can feed him through food puzzle devices so it takes longer for him to finish eating. You can also relocate him to another room whilst you eat.
If your dog stares at you whilst he eats, it could be canine vigilance. He may be checking out possible threats to his food access. If you walk out of his view and notice his eyes follow you, it may be a sign of mistrust.
If he stares at you whilst eating and his tail is wagging and his body relaxed, he is probably enjoying his meal. Or that he just looks at a focal point near you and thus is not exactly staring at you.
Why does my dog stare at me when I pet him?
Are your dog’s body and facial expression relaxed as you pet him? Is his tail wagging? If yes, your pooch is connecting with you and loving you with his eyes.
If your dog yawns, licks his nose or lips, or stiffens his body, stop petting him. This is especially when he is giving you the whale eye, where the whites of his eyes are more exposed. That’s because all these signs say ‘give me space.’
Why does my dog stare at me whilst he poops?
This may be an unnerving situation, but not if you know why your pet looks at you whilst doing his business. Defaecation is one of the things that put animals in a most vulnerable position. As such, your dog will not do it where he does not feel safe.
If he watches you whilst pooping, it is because he trusts that you will warn him when there is a danger. He may also think that you will protect him if there is any impending danger. So if you move away whilst he is doing the deed, your dog will likely stop what he is doing. As such, avoid making sudden movements whilst your pet is pooping.
Why does my dog stare at me and bark?
Check your dog’s body language. Is his body relaxed or stiff? How is his tail wagging? Is his facial expression relaxed? Are his forehead and nose smooth? If he is tense, showing his teeth, and stiffening his tail as he barks at you, he is not in a positive mood.
If he is relaxed and wagging enthusiastically, he may be inviting you to interact with him. He may also be just seeking your attention.
Why does my dog stare at me and whine or cry?
Does your pooch do this whilst lying down and without engaging you? Your dog might be in physical discomfort, which requires you to check him for any visible sign of injury.
If your pet whines with his head, ears, and tail down, he is displaying a submissive posture. This can also be accompanied by a low body position similar to squatting. It’s like he’s saying, ‘Okay, you win.’ He could also whine to appease you.
If your dog whines as a greeting, he may just be excited at seeing you.
If you tend to give your pet a treat or do what he wants when he stares and whines, it’s a learned behaviour. If you want to remedy this, consistently wait for him to be calm before giving in.
Why does my dog stare at me and growl?
Dogs typically growl when they feel threatened, fearful, or anxious (they may growl a little whilst playing, though). As such, you need to evaluate the situation when the growling happens. When he does it whilst he is eating, it may be a sign of resource guarding. If he does it when you are sharing a space, he might feel insecure over his territory.
If the growling only happens when you touch him on a specific part of his body, that spot may be painful. Have him checked accordingly.
A summary of why dogs stare
Generally, dogs stare to get your attention, seek direction, clear up confusion, and express their desires. Considering all these factors, it is important to check your dog’s body language to interpret the stare better.
Also, staring directly into a dog’s eyes is like provoking a challenge or a fight. As such, looking directly at them in the eye for long periods is not recommended. This is especially if the dog’s body, tail, and facial expression are tense.
To help you decipher the other ways your dog is communicating with you, check out these tips on pet behaviour. Don’t forget to share what you know!