Doggy stares: Here's why your dog is keeping an eye on you

Puppy dog eyes are so cute that they can seem impossible to resits. But not all looks are made the same and sometimes, a dog's stare can even get a little bit too intense. Never fear, though, TAG24 is here to help you find out what's behind those big round windows to your pet's soul.

Dogs can play the staring contest too. But sometimes their intense looks mean you should back off.
Dogs can play the staring contest too. But sometimes their intense looks mean you should back off.  © unsplash/Matt Silveira

Everyone knows there are good looks and there are bad looks.

But when a dog stares deep in to your eyes, there may be more than just their desire for a snack at stake.

They might be getting into a staring match to be threatening or imposing and determine who's really the boss.

Dog who was seconds from being euthanized becomes besties with paralyzed puppy pal
Dogs Dog who was seconds from being euthanized becomes besties with paralyzed puppy pal

But if you want to really know what your dog is trying to express, take a gander at the rest of its posture.

If there's growling and a tense position to go with the staring, your pooch isn't in the mood to play. This is a threat and you should back off.

Even when there's no growl, it doesn't mean a stare isn't something to worry about. If your dog whines or barks while refusing to break eye contact, it may be trying to say that there's something wrong. In that case, it's time for a trip to the vet.

But not all staring is something to stress about. There are multiple reasons why dogs seek to catch and hold their owners' gaze.

Some stares are for snacks or attention

Resisting the needy, sweet stare of a puppy dog is no small feat, but sometimes it's part of training.
Resisting the needy, sweet stare of a puppy dog is no small feat, but sometimes it's part of training.  © unsplash/JOSHUA DANIEL

Sometimes a stare is meant to say, "Hey, their human, you can do something for me."

In other words, a stare may be a dog's way of expressing their great expectations: for food or a walk.

The pupper could just be sick of entertaining itself and looking to hang with its owner. It might just want some simple interaction like petting, or some serious playtime. The hope for a treat is also never far away.

Dog that was carelessly tossed off a bridge gets a second chance at happiness
Dogs Dog that was carelessly tossed off a bridge gets a second chance at happiness

On that note, that hope shouldn't always be fulfilled. Owners that can't resist their dog's puppy eyes may think they are doing their pooch a favor by rewarding that sweet look with scraps from their plate. But in reality, they are training the dogs to beg. What makes the sharing of human food more problematic is that some food we humans like can be deadly for dogs.

So next time your best four legged friend looks at you with that look that says, "You have enough pizza to share," ignoring it is the way to go.

This isn't even just about the food itself. If you constantly reward the dog with scraps, it will learn that it can influence a situation with a simple stare and start experimenting with what else can be influenced.

Dogs can show affections with a simple look

Have you ever caught your dog calmly staring at you while you're doing nothing much of note? That's how you know your four-legged buddy really likes you.

When you two make eye contact, the dog's pupils dilate and they relax. This affectionate stare down is a positive thing. It can strengthen the bond between human and pet. So the next time your pooch is just looking at you, maybe that's their way of saying: "Hey there, love you."

Dogs also have shorter sleep phases than their owners, so if you catch your pooch staring in the middle of the night, it might just be half asleep and thinking about snacks. Or it might be checking to see the people it cares about are still there.

The most vulnerable kind of look

Is your dog giving you the eyes while it's taking a poop? That's because it wants you to have its back.
Is your dog giving you the eyes while it's taking a poop? That's because it wants you to have its back.  © 123RF/yekatseryna

Some dogs stare at their owners while doing their business. Though first time dog owners may find this unnerving, it's simple animal instinct in action.

Dogs are pack animals. And when you and your dog have a good relationship, you are its pack leader.

That comes with certain responsibilities. Your dog is expecting you to have its back while it's stuck in a vulnerable position. It is looking for security, and maybe a treat or praise for doing the deed in the appropriate place.

However, if a dog is having a hard time pooping, it may find the situation stressful.

Blank stares aren't just a human thing

Don't overcomplicate your dog commands or you might be met with a blank confused stare.
Don't overcomplicate your dog commands or you might be met with a blank confused stare.  © unsplash/Bryan Williams

Just like humans, dogs too can stare in complete confusion.

If your dog just looks at you blankly while you keep repeating a command, it doesn't necessarily mean it's ignoring you.

It's also very possible that your pooch just doesn't understand what you want. Maybe the command was unclear or it still needs some training.

Dog training takes a lot of patience. But it also requires clarity from the owner. There's no room for foggy communication if you want to get the right reaction.

The words you use are important, but so is your tone. If you say something in anger, your dog will hear that in your voice – and no one likes to be shouted at.

Even if you think your dog's stare defies interpretation, one thing is clear: you have their attention for that moment. Try to make those shared glances positive moments that help your relationship grow.

Cover photo: unsplash/Matt Silveira

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