It starts with a strange feeling, maybe a prickling on the back of your neck or an itch you can’t quite scratch. You’re not sure what’s making you feel this way so you look around and discover the source.
Your pooch is staring you down.
What is going through their canine minds when they do this?
Why Is My Dog Staring At Me?
No, your dog probably isn’t judging your outfit or hairdo (well, maybe they are, but thankfully they can’t voice their opinion). Typically dogs stare because they are trying to communicate something to their humans. Let’s take a look at the various reasons that your dog might be focusing all of their attention on you.
Every dog owner has been there – they are enjoying a meal or a snack and all of a sudden they feel the tingling of a doggy stare, often combined with the heat of doggy breath as their canine companion pants in anticipation.
When dogs are hoping that you might share food, a toy, or have an intense interest in whatever you are doing, they will often stare, just waiting for the right opportunity to join you if you’ll let them!
It’s Time To Go Potty
Throughout history, dog owners have come up with many creative ways to train their dogs to indicate they need to be let outside. Some have installed bells for a dog to ring and others have trained their dogs to use a doggy door. However, it’s very common for dogs to sit and stare at their owners to communicate their need to go to the bathroom.
It’s no secret that most dogs love a good petting or belly rub. Staring at Mom or Dad might be a good indication that they feel they are past due for their next full body massage.
Although it might be horribly awkward, many dogs will stare at their owners while defecting. Although no one is really 100% sure why this happens, many behaviorists believe that dogs look at their owners because, during this time, they are very vulnerable and are feeling the need to be protected.
If your dog is trying to figure out what you want from them or if they are trying to figure out how to approach something new in their space, they may look at you for direction because they are confused. This is often combined with the adorable twist of the head that so often looks like they are trying to say, “Huh?”
Many studies have shown that dogs are capable of reading their owner’s body language and determining their moods. If you are sad, stressed, or angry, your beloved canine companion may be checking on you to figure out what’s wrong.
Some breeds, like Border Collies, use a stare while they herd! When these high-energy breeds aren’t given an outlet, they often allow their instincts to take over and they begin to herd the humans in their lives. This can be corrected by providing adequate exercise, training, and mental stimulation.
If you have a high-energy herding breed, you may want to consider participating in herding competitions! Do an internet search to find local herding groups near you where your dog can be “sheep tested” and then trained to use their natural instincts to the best of their ability.
Sadly, an intense stare combined with tense body language, bared teeth, or a growl could indicate that a dog is trying to tell a human to back off. If you find that your pet is showing signs of aggression towards you, it’s important to inform your veterinarian. There could be underlying medical reasons for their behavior.
If an underlying health condition is ruled out and the aggression continues, then it is time to consult with a behaviorist. Aggression can be a serious problem that can result in injury to both humans and pets.
If you’ve just adopted your new companion it will take time to learn all of their quirks. Each dog has a unique personality and may communicate slightly differently than other dogs. Building a bond with your pet is incredibly important and will help you to understand why they are staring at you on different occasions.
Tips For Bonding With Your New Dog
Whether you’ve adopted a puppy or an older dog, building a strong bond with your dog is important for their happiness and health. Here are a few ways that you can deepen your relationship with your dog:
Train, Train, Train!
Training doesn’t have to be stressful and boring. In fact, when owners make training fun, dogs respond better! It’s important to be consistent, provide clear boundaries, and to provide a lot of positive feedback through praise and treats while training. Be sure to include “fun” commands, like teaching your dog to get their favorite toy!
If you and your dog are looking for an activity to participate in together, consider joining a group to train for events like flyball, dock-diving, agility courses, herding, and competitive frisbee! The amazing thing that many owners find is that they, the human, need to be trained to communicate better with their dog in order to become the best team possible while competing.
Express Love Through Touch
Keeping in mind that some dogs prefer not to be touched in certain places, like their feet, be sure to give your dog a good petting or massage every day. Touch is a great way to express love and it can have health benefits as well by increasing circulation to the areas that are being rubbed.
Stimulate Their Brain
Dogs get bored just like humans do. Take the time to provide new toys and to take them to new places. You might even find that instead of feeding in a normal bowl, your dog has great fun getting their food from a feeder toy!
Take the time to figure out how your pet likes to play the most. This might mean playing fetch, tug-o-war, hide and seek, or by catching a frisbee! Playing with your dog each day will make them both happy and will provide them with the exercise they need to stay healthy.
Go For A Walk
Going for a walk is another wonderful way to provide exercise and stimulation for your dog. Think of this time as your dog’s social hour – with each sniff, they are exchanging information with other dogs in the neighborhood. You’ll likely get to know other regular walkers and make new friends as you go!
Surprise Them With A Treat
There are so many wonderful and healthy ways to give your dog a special treat every once in a while. In addition to the many treats available in pet stores, consider making your own at home! Treats can be baked or frozen.
If you aren’t handy in the kitchen, you can easily make a fun combination treat/chew toy by filling a Kong (or similar hollow toy) with applesauce. Freeze overnight and voila, frozen delight!
Simply Spend Time Together
At the end of a long day, it’s nice to just spend time with your dog. Let them be near you as you relax with a cup of hot tea, read a book, or binge your favorite TV show.
Over time you will develop an unbreakable bond with your pup and it won’t be long before any stare they give you will be easily interpreted!