Why Does My Dog Stare at Me?

When you were younger did you ever call out to your Mum because your sibling wouldn’t stop staring at you? Staring makes most of us uncomfortable, so you might be a bit creeped out if you notice your dog has taken to staring at you lately. It may make you start wondering what he is thinking behind those big eyes and if it’s good or bad – could he be plotting against you? (Probably not, after all he isn’t a cat!) But there is a reason behind that stare…

Stare VERSUS Slow Blink

First, you need determine, is my dog really staring? Chances are you are not staring back at your dog while he is creeping you out, so it may be that he is not really staring but is rather “slow blinking.” A dog’s body language includes the use of his eyes – not just where they are looking, but how they are looking. A dog who is slow blinking – blinking the eye lids slower with longer time in between blinks – is conveying relaxation and that they are not a threat. So, your dog may not be staring at you, he may just be relaxed and happy and letting you know!

IF YOUR DOG IS TRULY STARING…

That being said, dogs do stare. And it is vitally important to understand the difference between their stares.

Is he HARD STARING?

If your dog (or any dog!) is giving a hard stare (also known as a hard eye), you should stop what you are doing and assess the situation – DO NOT approach the dog! In dog body language, a hard stare is a sign that the dog is agitated and wants whatever it’s staring at to back off. Reactivity – including lunging, barking and biting – can follow a hard stare if it’s ignored. If you see a dog with hard eyes at the dog park or while on a walk, it’s time to disengage and not continue approaching, for the safety of every being involved.

But Chances Are, Your Dog Is Not “Hard Staring” at You … so what is he doing?

Learned Behaviour

Since staring is not a nice thing in a dog’s normal language – chances are your dog staring at you is a LEARNED behaviour. Yup! We impolite humans tend to stare at dogs’ faces A LOT. Especially overly cute dogs or ones with unique features such as a blue eye or speckled markings.

For some young puppies, this staring is enough to create a reactive dog – which is why many trainers teach dogs to be okay with a human stare by teaching a “look at me” or “watch me” cue. This cue literally teaches your dog to stare at you and then get rewarded. So, your dog could be offering that behaviour in the hopes she will get something good.

Conditioned Behaviour

Even if you haven’t intentionally taught this cue, your dog could have learned staring gets him something he wants through conditioning. Whenever we give our dogs a cue, we generally stare at them – whether it’s a sit, down or heel, which is then rewarded. In this case, staring becomes a precursor – something happens before you ask them to do something that gets them a reward. Again, a dog may sit and stare at you hoping you will give him a cue so he can earn a reward.

Your dog could have been conditioned to stare during his normal day to day life as well, no training required. Maybe you look at your dog in the face as you feed him each meal, or when you give into her begging and feed her a treat from your plate. Dogs are masters of body language and quickly pick up what works to get them what they want – if staring has earned them rewards, they are going to keep using it!

And, being intelligent creatures, dogs quickly learn to adapt that new language. So now he starts to stare at you if he wants anything, not just a reward. Maybe his water dish is empty or it’s time to go outside for a potty break. Maybe she is hoping for a belly scratch.

So basically, you are the annoying sibling that stared all the time until your dog, instead of calling for mum, figured out how to use staring to his advantage. Which shows you just how smart and adaptable they are at living with us. So next time your dog stares, just know you aren’t going crazy, he really is trying to tell you something…figuring out what, however, may be the trick.

 

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8 Comments

  1. Hi, I have ask this b4 but I have a bullmassiff x kelpy she is about 8 years old i has been told that she has very bad anxiety and very bad dry skin and she very well was born with it because mother has it and her siblings now i was told to put her on q tablets but I do not want to because I have had the big Q and not oly is it B—- painful but sometimes it works s/times not but I seen your last stay loyal comment and I believe you always 1oo per cent that she may just be that the grain free dry food could be the answer.. (please dear god) is true… So if so is it only dry food or can you get other food grain free… Because I have to do something to help my sweet 4 legged daughter she scratches and bites herself until she has sores all over her body pleaseeee help me to help her she has done this from the day I got her at 5 weeks old.

    1. Hi Vicki, the first thing after going to the vet that we recommend feeding itchy dogs is Stay Loyal Chicken, Lamb and Fish and raw meaty Lamb bones ONLY.
      This combination works well. So no treats or anything else. Strictly no beef or roo as these red meats can heat the body up and help bad microbes to grow causing the itchiness. The Meaty bone and Stay Loyal combination is outlined in detail in our feeding guide which you will get, in your emails, when you purchase.

      If her skin is really dry then reconsider the shampoo you use. Use a shampoo and conditioner for dry skin dogs. Also with dry skin dogs i find not washing them at all unless they stink works well to keep the natural oils on the skin.

      You could try b-complex supplementation for the anxiety, i know its sold as a anti-stress formula for people so maybe worth a try. B-complex is water soluble so will be peed out and is hard to over dose. Many dogs are low on these vitamins too, so worth a try.

      Important Notice- Lately we have noticed a big rise in dogs itching that are on the 3 month flea and tick treatments. People don’t suspect these because dogs usually start itching on the second or third dose. If your dog is on one of these products and has started itching 3 to 12 months after the first dose, I would suggest you suspect it as a possible contributor to the itch. Because these are long acting products, they could stay in your dog’s system for 6 months or more, it will take months for it to leave your dog’s system and months for the itch to stop. Your next question is, what should we use then…Try not to use anything for months if there are no ticks and fleas in your area. If you have to use something, I use Advantix and it works for my dogs.

  2. Ooh sorry another thing about my baby can I help her with her anxiety I have a spray that helps but I want to do something to help her more she hipervents so bag from her anxiety and she paces all the time in and out in and out all day long it drives me nuts, so I would to hate to be in her paws lol.. Please help me with this if you can…

  3. Hi,
    Could I please suspend my dog food being delivered for the time being, as we have plenty. He is a small dog and doesn’t always eat it.
    I will advise when to resume the delivery.

    Many thanks
    Kind regards
    Sue Manning

  4. Hello Stay Loyal, I am responding to the article Why does my dog stare at me. My husband read an article some time ago about dogs and their behaviour, training, etc, and in it they suggested that when a dog stares at you (with big gooey eyes) it means they love you. We certainly feel the love from our Cavalier King Charles little girl – she’s adorable and so loving and affectionate. On the other side, it could very well be learned behaviour because every time she stares at one of us, we rush over and cuddle her! Haha

  5. Have you an article or help with licking. I have 2 beautiful French Bulldogs but they always sit close to me and want to lick me to death on my arms and legs, even my husband and visitors get washed. We get embarrassed when they want to lick visitors.

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