Why Does My Dog Stare at Me?


Why does my dog stare at me? Your dog will normally stare at you because they want something, or they are expecting something from you, such as a treat or a walk. Outside of this they may consider that you are dangerous and need scaring or warning off.

Reasons for staring at you could include:

  • Wanting to go outside to the toilet.
  • Wanting to go for a walk.
  • Wanting to play.
  • Wanting food or drink.
  • Waiting for a treat/reward.
  • Waiting to play with you.
  • Waiting for a command from you.
  • Waiting for you to move so that they can join you, wherever you may be going.
  • Waiting to be invited to sit on your lap.
  • They may be nervous and need your security.
  • Maybe they just want your attention for a fuss.
  • Maybe they feel vulnerable.
  • They want affection.
  • Being scared of you.
  • Feeling threatened.
  • A Mother concerned about the safety of her Newborn pups.

On most occasions your dog will be staring at you because they want or need something, from that morning walk, to the bowl of food on the side that you haven’t given them yet.

Let’s face it: our dogs love us, but when you see them staring at you expectantly or intently, it’s usually not because they are gaga about you or trapped in a reverie of total devotion. It’s usually because they want something. They may be thinking that they are in line to get something. Usually, that “something” is most likely a tasty snack or a good walk.

So, the next time when you notice your canine friend gazing at you intently, don’t assume it’s just an expression of undying devotion. If you are paying keen attention to the context of this hint, they are giving you, you might discover that they are trying to tell something more specific.

In most cases, a staring dog is typically considered a good thing. Most trainers do encourage dogs to stare while awaiting their cues.

And if you’ve ever tried it, gazing deeply into the eyes of your dog can be a rewarding pastime.

Although to some it might seem slightly unnerving, the dog stare is a well-established communication mode in the dog world. However, this gaze should be a voluntary act. Never hold your dog’s head still staring into his eyes in the hope of getting a loving gaze, a mistake commonly made by young children. 

Your dog could mistakenly take this as a threat, and the reaction may not be as affectionate as you would hope. However, if they are all gooey-eyed, this is usually a sign that they adore and loves you. Nevertheless, let us look at several reasons why your dog keeps staring at you more comprehensively.

Your Dog will stare at you to Tell You Something

Staring can also happen when Fido is trying to tell you something or get your attention.

We have to accept that your dog will stare at you because they are trying to tell you something – the follow on to this if YOU have not paid attention to their stare is that they will BARK.

For example, they might sit by the door if it’s time for their toilet break and stare at you, If you miss this cue they may well whine or bark to go outside.

If you are eating and your dog is hungry, staring may their way of telling you that they want a share of the food you’re eating. It’s your canine friend giving you a tap on the shoulder to remind you they are around and are waiting for their food too. This can be annoying for some people, so if this is the case, then put the dog in another room while you eat.

Your Dog May Need Your Help

Because dogs can’t talk and tell us their desires, they use expressive eyes to communicate with us and don’t necessarily understand that YOU do not understand what it is that they are communicating to you, they won’t understand why you’re not listening.

So, your puppy could be gawking at you because he wants to do something or needs your help with something. Maybe your dog just lost his play ball under the couch, and he knows that you can help them get it back.

Is Your Dog Feeling Vulnerable?

Some dogs feel vulnerable when they are defecating, they can feel vulnerable and may be looking to you for protection and safety cues as they go about their business. They may feel vulnerable because previously you have told them off for defecating in the wrong place.

Trained dogs have also learned that they get rewarded with a nice treat if they go outside when they’re supposed to do so. Therefore, your dog may stare at you just to make sure you are aware of what they are doing and that they are doing it in the right place.

Is Your Dog Showing Affection?

Resisting a dog’s unconditional love is often not easy. As a pet owner, when you have developed an emotional and close bond, your dog will often use his stare to show affection. With an intense and affectionate stare, a dog will display a soft expression with the eyes slightly squinted. An affectionate stare between a human and a dog can raise the level of Oxytocin – “ Opens in a new tab.The love or cuddle hormone”.

Dogs are excellent at not just reading but interpreting your facial expressions. Your furry pal may be gazing at you to read your expression and decide how they ought to react or what to do next. If, for example, you display a worried expression, your dog might decide to cuddle up next to you in an effort to comfort you, simply because they can sense some sadness in you. Many a dog will react to a person crying or showing distress.

Some dog owners claim that their pets appear to be trying to read them like humans study a book. They stare at you, trying to understand what you are “saying.” You might have just pronounced a word that he knows through associative learning. Examples of such words are “walk” or “cookie,” and you may find him tilting his head in adoring and possibly excited anticipation of that walk you mentioned, even if it wasn’t directed at them.

Dogs Stare to get Your Attention

Over the years, dogs as a species have developed a close relationship with humans. This has allowed our four-legged family members to become adept at observing human behavior and responding accordingly. 

Sometimes, dogs might sit in front of you, staring at you with an anxious, concerned look. This maybe your dog’s way of communicating that they are not well and is seeking or looking for your assistance or they may be reacting to what they think are your concerns, perhaps thinking that you are troubled. 

Many times, they could be staring at you because they just want to be noticed. Our dogs have a neurochemical reaction every time they look at us, similar to the affection we experience when looking at someone we love.

Sometimes, your relationship with your dog needs nurturing. Therefore, remember that they might just be looking for some affirmation of your love. Try engaging them in a short play or petting session. Most times, when you catch your pooch staring into your face, it’s because you have something they want; a tasty morsel, a toy, or a hand that should be used to pet them.

Perhaps they just want to be let outside.

Dogs will Stare when Begging for Food

Dogs often want to share your food. Many will sit and stare at you intently when you are eating (this is called Groaking). Their eyes will be pleading eyes, hoping to garner your attention as well as possibly get a tit-bit of whatever it may be that you are eating, remember though if its chocolate or maybe food containing onion then you shouldn’t be sharing – See our page on Can My Dog Have Chocolate.Opens in a new tab.

Whether you are having dinner or snacking, if you feel your canine pal groaking, it’s probably because he wants a bite of whatever you’re enjoying. 

My dog Rose will look at me as if starved even if she has just been fed

The dog will act as if they are dying of hunger or starving just to have a piece of what you are eating. Unfortunately, this behavior is learned and perpetuated by many dog owners. If you give him food or a treat when he stares at you, he’ll learn to expect that same reward anytime he looks at you beseechingly as you eat. 

Be careful not to cave into those moments because you could be encouraging a bad habit that will be difficult to break.

Trained dogs will Watch For Your Cues

A dog trained using positive reinforcement looks to you for cues on what to do and how to behave. It’s helpful to have your pooch trained to look at you using hand signals as well as verbal cues because that helps focus their attention on you. The staring locks out other distractions such as noises, smells, or other animals/humans. A dog that looks to you for directional cues becomes more responsive to commands.

This distraction technique can be very important when you have a dog that is socially challenged with other dogs as the distraction could avoid them from engaging in unwanted behaviour toward other dogs.

If the dog is looking for cues from you but continues to gawk, particularly with the head cocked to one side, it could be a sign that they are confused. They understand that you want something but can’t figure out precisely what it is that you want. This could be a sign that your training is yet to reach a certain level.

Confused look

Your dog might also look at you to know what is likely to happen next. If they see you grab their poop bags or leash, they know a walk is coming up. When you take out the food bowl, they know feeding time has come. Similarly, when you grab your car keys, they may stare at you in expectation of a car ride or a trip to the dog park.

Dogs Stare Out of Curiosity 

Ever talked to yourself while doing something and find that your dog is closely watching you like they are following every word? A tilted head pricked ear and a soft stare – your dog has the cutest way of letting you know that they are unsure what you are up to and waiting for clarification. 

Boston Terrier looking Curious

Your dog doesn’t want to miss anything or, get yelled at for nothing. When your pet dog stares hard at you, they may be monitoring your behavior, trying to figure out what’s happening and how it might impact him.

If you have given your dog a command, but you are met with a gooey-eyed response, it means your dog doesn’t understand what is expected of him. You may need to revisit a few aspects of dog training.

Dogs Staring can Tell Us How They Feel

Your dog also uses direct eye contact to express both positive and negative emotions. Among their ancestors, the wolves, staring, is typically seen as a threatening gesture, and some dogs still have that aggressive attitude. That explains why you should avoid staring down strange dogs or even holding your dog still to stare directly into their eyes. 

If a dog is looking at you with challenging, unblinking eyes accompanied by a stiff posture, it’s best to avoid eye contact and back away. Even your own dog might give you this hostile treatment if something valuable like a bone is at stake. If you are approaching a dog’s food, toy, bed, cage, or petting him and he turns to give you a direct stare with menace or a look of being scared, back off and reapproach in a different manner.

Other indicators that your dog needs space is when the stare is accompanied by dilated wide pupils, a closed mouth, still body, and stiff tail. A lowered head, ears pinned backward, or forward, and strong deliberate body shifts either forward or backward are also not good indicators.

If your dog is continually giving aggressive stares, that could indicate a behavioral problem, and it may be best to seek the help of a veterinarian or animal behaviorist.

Dogs Stare when on a Hunting/Prowling Mode

Herding dogs are known to stare to control cows, sheep, goats, and people. Hunting dogs may also stare when they are hunting or on the prowl. For example, a Border collie’s “eye” bulges out as he stalks a playmate, toy or flock of stock.

This kind of stare can be either serious or playful, something you are likely to see when at the park and may not necessarily be directed at you. If you notice your furry friend suddenly slowing down with a lowered head and staring into the distance or at some moving object, they could be in herding or hunting mode. 

Experiencing Cognitive Dysfunction

If you have a senior dog, and he keeps staring at you for no good reason, such behavior could be symptomatic of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is the canine version of human Alzheimer’s disease.

Long periods of blank staring, especially if the dog seems to be dreamily staring off into space or at a random spot that could signify CCD. If you notice such unusual behavior, consult your vet.

One other thing you may notice with this condition is that your dog may sit staring at a wall, but this ca also be a sign of stress, either way consult your vet.

Should I Be Worried About a Dog Staring At Me?

Possibly Yes.

As the person who spends the most time with your dog, you can probably make a pretty good guess about what the dog wants when they stare at you. After all, you know them best and can easily decide whether to oblige them or not. 

There are, however, a few reasons or instances to be concerned about a dog’s stare. Sometimes, staring can indicate aggression – especially if the dog doesn’t know you because they feel threatened or scared. In such a case, you get a “hard stare” often accompanied by a closed mouth at times with exposed teeth, a stiff posture, and wide pupils. 

Unless you are extremely confident in your abilities and understanding of what this “hard stare” can lead to, if a dog gives you a hard stare, avert your eyes, but do not turn your head away and slowly back away.

If you turn away the dog may strike, as you move away backwards the dog will gradually see you as less of a threat and will slowly soften its stance as it no longer sees you as a threat.

A hard stare is different from a “soft stare.” A soft stare is usually accompanied by an open mouth, relaxed body posture, and sometimes light panting.

Giving Birth to Pups

When a Dog gives birth to pups, they will naturally be concerned about the safety of their pups. She may simply give you a soft look knowing that she can trust you to help her, but like any mother she will be very protective and will stare at you all the time you are in close vicinity so be careful of actions of children at the early stages of motherhood.

Conclusion to Dogs Staring

For the majority of the time, your four-legged buddy will stare for obvious and expected reasons. He wants a tasty morsel of what you are eating; perhaps he just loves you, wants to use the bathroom, go outside and play, or is just curious about what is going on, wondering what’s in it for him.

A typical dog stare is friendly and well-intentioned, an expression of adoration. However, it’s essential to note that if the eye contact between a human and a dog is too intense or prolonged, it might discomfort the dog—comparable to how two humans become uncomfortable when they stare at each other for an extended period.

In most cases, a stare should be considered part of normal dog behavior, a way of communicating emotion or need. Dog stares are generally a good thing, positive signals between people and dogs. However, if, for no reason, your dog’s stare borders on aggression, it may be time to seek the professional assistance of a dog behavior specialist or veterinarian.

Unless you are extremely confident in your abilities and understanding of what this “hard stare” can lead to, if a dog gives you a hard stare, avert your eyes, but do not turn your head away and slowly back away. If you turn away the dog may strike, as you move away backwards the dog will gradually see you as less of a threat and will slowly soften its stance as it no longer sees you as a threat.

A hard stare is different from a “soft stare.” A soft stare is usually accompanied by an open mouth, relaxed body posture, and sometimes light panting.

Giving Birth to Pups

When a Dog gives birth to pups, they will naturally be concerned about the safety of their pups. She may simply give you a soft look knowing that she can trust you to help her, but like any mother she will be very protective and will stare at you all the time you are in close vicinity so be careful of actions of children at the early stages of motherhood.

Conclusion to Dogs Staring

For the majority of the time, your four-legged buddy will stare for obvious and expected reasons. He wants a tasty morsel of what you are eating; perhaps he just loves you, wants to use the bathroom, go outside and play, or is just curious about what is going on, wondering what’s in it for him.

A typical dog stare is friendly and well-intentioned, an expression of adoration. However, it’s essential to note that if the eye contact between a human and a dog is too intense or prolonged, it might discomfort the dog—comparable to how two humans become uncomfortable when they stare at each other for an extended period.

In most cases, a stare should be considered part of normal dog behavior, a way of communicating emotion or need. Dog stares are generally a good thing, positive signals between people and dogs. However, if, for no reason, your dog’s stare borders on aggression, it may be time to seek the professional assistance of a dog behavior specialist or veterinarian.

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