It’s no fun realizing you’re being watched. It’s even stranger to realize that your dog is looking at you while you brush your teeth, eat breakfast, or spend time reading in bed.
While being watched by a dog, it is less uncomfortable than being watched by a person, but it’s still weird!
There are a lot of reasons why your dog is staring at you, and I have broken them down so you know what happens to your pet when he fixes you with his eyes from the other side of the room.
Most of the time you catch your dog looking into your soul because you have something he wants. It could be a toy, a piece of tasty food, or a hand that could be used for petting.
Staring at you can also be a sign that your pet wants to go outside.
Dogs learn quickly that looking at us is a good way to ask for something. In fact, you’ve probably encouraged some of this behavior by giving your dog something when they were looking at it.
You may have fed him with leftovers from your dinner, causing begging, petted him, or taken him for a walk when he had those puppy eyes. Essentially, you trained your dog to stare by rewarding the fact that he looks at you!
As annoying as it may be, you’ll probably agree that it’s a better way to ask for something than barking, digging, or biting!
Dogs that stare during training, especially with that cute tilted head, are probably a little bit confused. Your dog is trying to figure out what you want, just like you are trying to figure out what he wants! It would be so much easier if we all spoke the same language.
If you catch your dog staring at you when you ask him to do something, it’s time to step back from your training and find a way to communicate more clearly.
So, if you ask your dog to sit and the dog is just staring at you, go back to the base and train the behavior again. Your dog is not willfully disobedient. He’s just confused!
There is a completely different way for dogs to look. Just before he bites, the dog takes a “hard look”. This fixed look can only take a fraction of a second or take a few minutes. This is one of the many warnings before a bite. At the same time, many dogs will avoid looking at you before biting.
If you pet a dog or approach his toy, food, cage, or bed, the moment he turns around and gives you that hard look, go back.
It may take a lot of practice to learn to differentiate between what animal behavior specialists call a “hard look” and a keen look for different rewards.
Give space to your dog if his look is accompanied by a rigid tail, moving or not, his body is still, his mouth is closed, his pupils are dilated (wide pupils), his head is lowered, his ears are fixed forward or backward, and has strong body movements forward or backward. You may not see all of these signs at once but look for any kind of combination.
Approaching canine aggression is not easy, but in such moments you can at least retreat. Fighting the dog is not worth it. You can improve this kind of behavior by training him with the help of a specialist.
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At the exact opposite end of the spectrum, your dog might look into your eyes because he loves you. A 2015 article in Science magazine found that both dogs and humans release oxytocin when they look at each other.
This gentle look can easily be confused with a rough look for new owners, so the context is important. This sign, that your four-legged friend loves you, will probably be accompanied by a gentle movement of the tail, slight tickling, relaxed ears, and normal-sized pupils.
Many dogs are more prone to show those loving looks early in the morning when serotonin levels are the highest. Your pet is unlikely to look at you lovingly while playing, eating, or training, so assume it has a different motivation if that happens at such a time.
Shepherd dogs are also prone to fixed looks, as a way to control sheep, goats, cows, toys, and people. The border Collie’s famous “eye” comes to light when the dog is watching a herd of stockings, a toy, or a playmate.
Also, hunting dogs often stare when they are in wait. This behavior can be playful or serious, but it often occurs when you are in the middle of a game or in the woods.
If you notice that your pet is suddenly slowing down, lowering its head, and looking away, or at a moving object, it is probably in hunting or shepherding mode!
If you’re trying to figure out exactly why your dog is staring at you, the context is important. You will need to pay attention to what is going on around you, as well as the rest of your dog’s body language.