Do you ever notice your dog gazing right at you and wonder why does my dog stare at me? Sometimes dogs stare because they want something, such as a treat or to go for a walk. There are other surprising reasons dogs stare at their humans.
If you hope that sometimes your dog stares at you because he loves you, good news alert! Dogs understand love on many levels, and they show us they love us, too. It’s no longer just the opinion of dog lovers of the highest order. Science concurs dogs know we love them, but they show it in their own unique canine ways.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn why your dog stares at you, stick around. Below is a list of the 21 top reasons dogs stare and what you should do when it happens.
1. Your Dog Stares At You Because He Wants Food
The silent sitter or the brown-eyed begger, whatever you call it, there’s the “give me food now” stare. Most dogs have mastered the art of the food stare. Puppy dog eyes are definitely at their best when it’s time for food, treats, or perhaps some of your food.
2. My Dog Stares At Me When He Wants Me To Stop Working
Dogs are social beings, and they love being with you. When I’ve been on the computer too long, my dog sits by my office chair and stares at me. The lingering stare goes on and on and he’s become a master at giving me a guilt trip. If your dog stares at you for spending too much time on your phone, laptop, or computer, he’s trying to tell you he wants your attention.
3. Your Dog Is Not Happy
Not all stares are happy or comforting ones. Some dogs may want to be left alone and will stare at you to go away. Dogs who are teased or annoyed can sometimes snap or bite, as is the case with young children or adults who taunt a dog. The CDC says 4.5 million dog bites occur every year. A long, hard stare accompanied by teeth bared or growling is a clear sign that your dog is not happy.
4 Your Dog Loves You Unconditionally
Dogs can’t tell you they love you in the way humans can. However, some dogs know how to say “I Love You” or verbalize their adoration for you. The puppy love in your dog’s heart is shown in many ways. Even when you don’t realize it, looking at you is one of the many ways dogs let us know they dig us.
5. You Are Crying or Upset and Your Dog Empathizes
Many dogs not only feel distressed when their owners are sad, but some dogs will also try to help ease your pain and sorrow. If you’ve ever cried and your dog stared at you, he’s feeling your pain and wanting to make it better. Take him up on it and let him comfort you.
6. A Stare Can Mean Your Dog Wants To Play
When a dog goes into a play bow, front paws forward, tush in the air, wagging his tail, he may stare you down. He may stare and utter a few “woof woof” sounds or howl. He’s likely trying to get you to play. Puppies and young dogs often do this. My senior Cocker Spaniel gives me the play stare when it’s time to have some fun.
7. The Stare With a Tilted Head Means Say What?
A dog might stare at you and tilt his head when he hears a familiar word. If he has no idea what you are talking about, he might stare and tilt his head, too. If you ask your dog something like, “Do you want to go for a walk” he may tilt his head and look right at you. You’ve got his attention, now act on it. I’ve seen dogs stare at their human after the person sneezes. It’s as if he is saying, “what in the heck was THAT?”
8. Your Dog May Have Cognitive Decline
Sadly, like people, as dogs get older, they may experience cognitive decline. Formally known as cognitive dysfunction syndrome in dogs, your pup may stare at you in confusion. He may also forget certain basic commands, wander around, get confused at nighttime, and seem disoriented. Your veterinarian can help you with a diagnosis.
9. Dogs Stare When They Have To Go Out To Pee or Poop
It’s not uncommon for a dog to look at you when it’s time to take care of potty business. Some dogs bark, circle, or ring a bell. Many dogs, mine included, will sit and stare at me. They want to go out and looking at you is their way of saying, “Hey, it’s time for a potty break.”
10. Your Dog Is Waiting For a Cue From You
Dogs who are trained with clickers, hand signals, or any other type of positive reinforcement may stare and wait for a cue from you. Dogs are very in tune with human body language, so if you’ve used hand signals or any other type of non-verbal cue, he’s might stare and wait for your instruction. Pretty cool, right?
11. Your Dog Could Be Having a Seizure
Not all stares are good ones, and sometimes dogs look catatonic when they are about to have or amid a canine seizure. The folks at webMD say dogs may look dazed, confused, or stare off into space before a seizure. If your dog does this repeatedly and hasn’t been diagnosed with epilepsy, be sure to talk to your veterinarian about it.
12. Your Dog Could Be In Pain
Dogs exhibit pain in many different ways. Acute glaucoma in dogs, for example, is very painful and can lead to sudden blindness if not treated right away. Dogs look cute when they gaze at us, but it could also signify that they are in pain. Dogs may have a vacant stare and even look off or have a grimaced look when they feel pain.
13. Dogs May Stare When They Are Anxious
My dog knows an hour before I do that a thunderstorm is coming. He will come over to me, sit down and stare at my face. His floppy Cocker ears usually fold back a bit, and within a half-hour to an hour, the thunderstorm appears. A dog might stare if he anticipates you are going to work, leaving the house, are upset, or any number of things. Anxiety and nervousness manifest in many ways, and starting behavior is one of them.
14. The Dog Is Gathering Information
Some dogs, such as service animals, police K9s, or everyday family dogs stare to gather and process information. They will look at you, “read” your face and act on what they need to do next. Dogs turn the information gleaned from the stare into a learned response and act on it.
15. Your Dog Knows Something Is Wrong
There are countless stories of dogs alerting their owners of a fire, an intruder, a crying baby, and even cancer. Dogs may do something as simple as look at you for an extended period of time. They might be trying to tell you something isn’t right. When I was discharged from the hospital a few years back after surgery, my dog stared at me and sniffed the wound site. He knew and smelled that something was different about me.
16. Your Dog Wants You To Help Him
A toy is stuck. The ball is under the couch. He’s ready to poop and is feeling anxious. Your dog needs you to help him physically or with nonverbal reassurance that everything is okay. Did you ever notice your dog looking up at you before or during a poop? He’s vulnerable and making sure you are protecting him until he’s done.
17. Your Dog Is Blind But Stares At You
Dogs who are born blind or lose their vision may still stare at you. Dogs are very in tune with their owners. When a dog loses one sense, others are heightened. The saying love is blind applies to dogs, too.
18. Your Dog Wants You To Know He Is Innocent
People with more than one pet know it can be tricky to figure out who did something naughty. Which dog was it? Was it the cat? Your dog may stare at you when he sees another dog engaging in behavior he knows is off-limits. It’s almost like your dog is saying “it wasn’t me.” Or maybe it was and he’s giving you innocent puppy dog eyes. After all, dogs don’t seek revenge.
19. Your Dog Has A Boo Boo
A thorn in her paw. A bee sting. Something stuck to her fur. Her leg hurts. She is injured. There is any number of boo-boos and injuries that can happen. Your dog may want assistance and can’t verbalize his feelings and needs. It might be that he’s trying to say “please help me out.”
20. You Forgot To Do Something
Dogs are creatures of habit. Did you forget to feed him? Not give him a walk? Are you late with your play session? Dogs will stare when it’s time for something. Many dogs feel the effects of daylight savings time. When the clocks change, your pooch may feel that something is off and stare at you to show it!
21. It’s Time For Bed
Finally, your dog may be tired and is sick of sitting on the couch or by your feet. He wants to go to bed and he might stare at you to remind you of the time. Is it 11 pm and you are watching television? Your dog is over it and wants to go to sleep. First comes the stare, sometimes a heavy sigh, and your dog might even leave the room and go to “his spot” or to bed.
Dogs may experience an attack of vestibular disease and have rapid eye movements called nystagmus.
Of note, many dogs perceive staring behavior as a threat. A prolonged gaze or stare can be interpreted as a challenge, and dogs may growl or bite. Here’s how to avoid a dog bite and what your dog’s body language means.
Does your dog ever stare at you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.