As a dog owner, you will be at the heart of your pet’s daily life. Your dog relies on you to provide food, take them for walks and love them. This dependency lies behind part of the reason that dogs have a habit of staring at their owners.
Although some people may find it disconcerting at times, this kind of behavior is typical in most dogs. Read on to find out what it is your best friend might be trying to tell you when they give you a long, meaningful stare.
Dogs Are Trying to Find Out What’s About to Happen
The lasting bond between dogs and humans is well documented. There are plenty of scientists who’ve studied this special relationship. They’ll tell you that dogs and humans have lived together in domestic bliss for at least 16,000 years and possibly much longer.
Part of what makes the arrangement so unique and harmonious is the flow of information between a dog and its owner. Dogs seem to have a knack for being in tune with people in a way that other animals do not.
The most common explanation to the question, “Why does my dog keep staring at me?” is that your pet is using it as a means of communicating. The art of good communication involves having the ability to listen. By staring at us, dogs can:
- Feel our moods
- Understand our gestures
- Glean information about what is likely to happen next
In short, they spend time reading us for clues about what we are planning for their day.
Reaching for the leash is a classic example. Dogs learn that this is a sign that a walk outside is about to happen. They will stare to see if you give any indication that one of their favorite pastimes is about to happen.
A similar process happens for all sorts of other activities like meals and playing. For instance, if you reach for the car keys, your dog may understand that this might well mean that a trip out is imminent.
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Dogs learn to take deliberate cues such as sitting or lying down. They know that there’s the chance of a reward if they do as you say. Positive reinforcement is something dogs enjoy and they will stare patiently for signs that you’re about to play this training game.
Dogs Want to Tell You Something
Sometimes dogs will stare as a way of trying to attract your attention. They may need to go outside for a toilet break, for example. When you are eating, they may stare longingly at you in the hope that you might share some of your food with them.
They know that the longer they stare the more chance there may be that you will give in to their desire. Consistency is key here. If you keep feeding them scraps at your mealtimes, your dog will expect you to always do this.
The best way to avoid these kinds of guilt trips is to train your dog to do another activity while you are eating. You could try giving them something to chew in their bed while you are having dinner, for example.
Dogs Want to Express Their Feelings
Dogs use eye contact to express a range of emotions. It’s normal behavior, usually harmless and not something to worry about. However, if they have something precious that they want to protect, such as a bone or treat, they may give you a long hard stare.
You should never try to outstare a dog you’re unfamiliar with in this kind of situation. If you do, the dog may feel threatened and might become aggressive. Simply move away and avoid any eye contact.
At the other end of the spectrum, dog staring can be an expression of love. It’s a way for a pet to show their affection toward you. When you stare back, it can trigger the release of a hormone called oxytocin that causes feelings of love.
When a new mother looks into her baby’s eyes, she releases the same hormone. Oxytocin is a chemical that’s integral to cementing the bond between individuals. It helps in the development of trust and love.
Dogs That Stare Can Be Easier to Train
So, why does my dog keep staring at me? The most common reasons are to display affection and to attract your attention. Your dog depends on you for almost everything and so will constantly be looking for clues about what you may have planned for them.
This focus can make it easier to train your pet. Dogs that stare at their owners attentively are more likely to learn faster and perform better.
If you need a little more reassurance about dog staring, book a video consultation with one of our qualified veterinarians to get advice on your pet questions within minutes. For extra peace of mind, we are also able to offer straightforward, hassle-free, pet insurance for your dog.