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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.

9 thoughts on “Why Does My Dog Stare At Me?

  1. Louise Kirwood says:

    This is soooo my Lexie.
    I can be sitting on the couch and know she is beside me.
    I turn to look at her and she’s there staring at me.
    I ask her what she wants but she continues to stare until I get up.
    Often she wants to go out to toilet (she never barks to tell me this) other times it’s dinner time and she’s making sure I don’t forget it.
    Makes me laugh 😂

  2. Lindel Oliver says:

    My girl stares at me with what looks like adoration. I scratch and cuddle her but the stare will go on until I beg her to go away.

  3. Christine says:

    This article is spot on, when my dog stares at me it’s the process of elimination, more food, water, beef ear stuck on roof of mouth or a bum wipe lol. (Yes I wiped her bum a couple of times because she needed it, now asks for it if needed) Such a creature of habit, that if I miss one thing in her dinner, she will do this to me.
    When she is hungry and it’s her actual dinner time she doesn’t stop pawing and starring me.

  4. Jenny Ritter says:

    This is so our two Jacks! This is a very interesting article which explains a lot regarding the staring sessions we have shared with our two…
    We learnt to stop the ‘I want YOUR food’ stare and we can even safely eat human nibbles from a low table with a relevant command. A “no go” for puppy dogs!!!
    One of our girls will sit and stare while I exercise. Another will just seemingly stare lovingly for no reason, but will lick her lips if she wants food. The other cries & runs around when she is hungry. I suppose like humans, we grow to know each other more the longer you live under the same roof!! Yes, it is a process of elimination, but we have fun getting to the answer..!

  5. Sheri. stevens says:

    This is so true, my boy does it get his dinner earlier than normal. Who said we train our dogs, I thi k my dogs read that book too.

  6. Jan Chamberlin says:

    My dog comes to me, sits for a pet and stares for a response. Has a great soppy stare together on my knee.
    Jan

  7. Tee says:

    I have a schnoodle, with dominant Schnauser traits and appearance. Have met many people with Schnausers and all agree that one of the most beautiful things about them is their “stare”. Even as tiny puppies they will stare directly into the eyes of their person, willing you to stare back. Without getting too romantic here, it’s as though they are trying to communicate something important. There is also of course a “play stare” and an “I want stare” but those are not the same as the, apparently breed natural, “I really love you and want you to know it stare”.

  8. Charlotte Kriegisch says:

    I still can not find an answer to the staring of my Koolie. He stands there and stares at my partner, not noticing that I do watch this. I have no explanation since it is not rewards, going out or asking for attention. Maybe, it is just a Koolie thing to do. I usually go Flyball Training with all my dogs ( 2 BorderCollies +1 Koolie).

    1. Robert says:

      Hi Charlotte, in my article I only addressed basic pet staring which cover most dogs. Some breeds may get to stare due to genetic reasons. Koolies are sheep dogs and sheep dogs need to have a “Good Eye” which means they stare at the sheep at certain moments while working them. Possibly your Koolie is doing a variation of this working stare.

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