Why Does My Dog Stare at Me

It may seem slightly unnerving, but the dog stare is actually a well-established form of communication in the canine world. Find out why dogs keep staring at us.
why is my dog staring at me
why is my dog staring at me
why is my dog staring at me

‘Why does my dog stare at me?’ If your dog has been keeping an eye on you, and you’ve been asking yourself this question, you’re not alone. Dogs stare at us quite a lot, prompting many owners to try and decipher what the mysterious gaze could be about. While we might not be able to know what exactly is going through a dog’s mind, there are a few cues that can help us understand this canine behaviour.

From the loving gaze to the icy glare, dogs use eye contact as a form of communication. Here are a few possible reasons why dogs keep staring at us.

1. They love us

Just as humans gaze into the eyes of people we love, dogs have “borrowed” the same sign of affection to communicate with their owners. New research shows that mutual gazing between us and our pets releases the same hormonal response present during mother and infant bonding in humans. If you discover your dog looking at you with longing eyes and no apparent reason, it just might be a sign of affection. Never try to force your pet into eye contact by holding their head. Dogs can interpret it as a threat and react accordingly.

dog lovingly staring at owner

2. They’re reading our body language

Since we don’t share the same language, dogs and humans have learned to look out for nonverbal cues to figure out each other’s intentions. While we are trying to understand our dog’s body language, dogs are trying to interpret human behaviour too. This is why owners will often notice their dogs staring at them as they open the cupboard, or put their shoes on. Dogs look at us expecting the next step and can learn to associate human behaviours with receiving a reward such as getting a treat or going outside.

3. They’re confused

A soft stare, tilted head and pricked ears – dogs have the cutest way of letting us know they’re not sure what’s going on and waiting for clarifications. Often the answer to the question “why does my dog stare at me” is that they’re feeling confused. If you’ve just given them a command only to be met with a gooey-eyed answer, it’s probably best to revisit a few dog training tips to ensure your pup knows what’s expected of them.

4. They want something

Ever feel your dog is training you, rather than the other way around? Dog owners often feel compelled to act when dogs won’t give up looking so intently at them. The reason why dogs stare at us when they want something is because we’ve unintentionally taught them this behaviour. Whether it’s reaching for the treats, taking them for a walk or offering them a cuddle, dogs will quickly learn there is a ‘cause and effect’ rule involving their ability to keep eye contact with their owner. If you reward them with treats and attention every time they sit and stare at you, they’ll keep doing it to get what they’re after.

5. They’re begging for food

Dogs will often want a share of their owner’s food. Whether you’re sitting at the table having dinner or snacking in front of the TV, if you feel your canine companion staring you down, it’s probably because they want a bite of what you’re having. Be careful in giving up and feeding your dog in those moments as it may turn into a habit that’s difficult to break.

dog staring

6. They want attention

Sometimes dogs start staring at their owners as a way to get noticed. Dogs are not shy to throw intense stares our way if they feel a bit ignored. Even if you’re showering your pet with affection every day, dogs might still ask you for extra attention if they get bored or are not getting enough exercise. Find out more about attention-seeking dog behaviour with our handy guide.

7. They’re showing aggressiveness

It’s important to remember that puppy eyes are not the only glance in the canine vocabulary. If the dog is very stiff and still, it’s best to avoid maintaining eye contact with them and to give them space to settle down. Aggressive stares will usually come up in interactions with unfamiliar dogs or people, rather than with owners. But it’s always best to keep an eye out on body language and make sure to keep away if the signs point to a fearful or worried dog. Find out more about how to manage an aggressive dog in our article.

8. They’re experiencing cognitive dysfunction

If your older dog is staring constantly at you for no apparent reason, this behaviour could be a sign of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in dogs. Wandering around aimlessly, forgetting basic commands and looking disoriented in familiar settings are other signs that your dog might be suffering from cognitive decline. Make sure you check with your vet if you notice any unusual signs accompanying your dog’s habit of staring at you.

Hopefully by now you’ve got the answer to the question “why does my dog stare at me”. If you want to find out more about canine behaviour and how they signal their emotions, check out our dog behaviour guides.